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Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in animal models provides a platform for more extensive investigation of drug effects and underlying physiological mechanisms than is possible in humans. However, it is usually necessary for the animal to be anesthetized. In this study, we have used a rat model of direct cortical stimulation to investigate the effects of anesthesia in rodent fMRI. Specifically, we have sought to answer two questions (i) what is the relationship between baseline neuronal activity and the BOLD response to stimulation under halothane anesthesia? And (ii) how does the BOLD response change after transferring from halothane to the commonly used anesthetic alpha-chloralose? In the first set of experiments, we found no significant differences in the amplitude of the BOLD response at the different halothane doses studied, despite electroencephalography (EEG) recordings indicating a dose-dependent reduction in baseline neuronal activity with increasing halothane levels. In the second set of experiments, a reduction in the spatial extent of the BOLD response was apparent immediately after transfer from halothane to alpha-chloralose anesthesia, although no change in the peak signal change was evident. However, several hours after transfer to alpha-chloralose, a significant increase in both the spatial extent and peak height of the BOLD response was observed, as well as an increased sensitivity to secondary cortical and subcortical activation. These findings suggest that, although alpha-chloralose anesthesia is associated with a greater BOLD response for a fixed stimulus relative to halothane, there is substantial variation in the extent and magnitude of the response over time that could introduce considerable variability in studies using this anesthetic.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





92 - 100


Anesthesia, General, Anesthetics, Inhalation, Anesthetics, Intravenous, Animals, Chloralose, Dominance, Cerebral, Electric Stimulation, Electroencephalography, Evoked Potentials, Motor, Halothane, Hindlimb, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Isometric Contraction, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Motor Cortex, Oxygen, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Sensitivity and Specificity