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Detailed understanding of the haemodynamic changes that underlie non-invasive neuroimaging techniques such as blood oxygen level dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging is essential if we are to continue to extend the use of these methods for understanding brain function and dysfunction. The use of animal and in particular rodent research models has been central to these endeavours as they allow in-vivo experimental techniques that provide measurements of the haemodynamic response function at high temporal and spatial resolution. A limitation of most of this research is the use of anaesthetic agents which may disrupt or mask important features of neurovascular coupling or the haemodynamic response function. In this study we therefore measured spatiotemporal cortical haemodynamic responses to somatosensory stimulation in awake rats using optical imaging spectroscopy. Trained, restrained animals received non-noxious stimulation of the whisker pad via chronically implanted stimulating microwires whilst optical recordings were made from the contralateral somatosensory cortex through a thin cranial window. The responses we measure from un-anaesthetised animals are substantially different from those reported in previous studies which have used anaesthetised animals. These differences include biphasic response regions (initial increases in blood volume and oxygenation followed by subsequent decreases) as well as oscillations in the response time series of awake animals. These haemodynamic response features do not reflect concomitant changes in the underlying neuronal activity and therefore reflect neurovascular or cerebrovascular processes. These hitherto unreported hyperemic response dynamics may have important implications for the use of anaesthetised animal models for research into the haemodynamic response function.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1 - 8


Anaesthesia, Haemodynamic, Neurovascular coupling, Optical imaging, fMRI, Animals, Brain Mapping, Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory, Hemodynamics, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Optical Imaging, Physical Stimulation, Rats, Somatosensory Cortex, Vibrissae, Wakefulness