Brain imaging techniques that use vascular signals to map changes in neuronal activity, such as blood oxygenation level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging, rely on the spatial and temporal coupling between changes in neurophysiology and haemodynamics, known as ‘neurovascular coupling (NVC)’. Accordingly, NVC responses, mapped by changes in brain haemodynamics, have been validated for different stimuli under physiological conditions. In the cerebral cortex, the networks of excitatory pyramidal cells and inhibitory interneurons generating the changes in neural activity and the key mediators that signal to the vascular unit have been identified for some incoming afferent pathways. The neural circuits recruited by whisker glutamatergic-, basal forebrain cholinergic- or locus coeruleus noradrenergic pathway stimulation were found to be highly specific and discriminative, particularly when comparing the two modulatory systems to the sensory response. However, it is largely unknown whether or not NVC is still reliable when brain states are altered or in disease conditions. This lack of knowledge is surprising since brain imaging is broadly used in humans and, ultimately, in conditions that deviate from baseline brain function. Using the whisker-to-barrel pathway as a model of NVC, we can interrogate the reliability of NVC under enhanced cholinergic or noradrenergic modulation of cortical circuits that alters brain states.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Interpreting BOLD: a dialogue between cognitive and cellular neuroscience’.
One contribution of 15 to a Theo Murphy meeting issue ‘Interpreting BOLD: a dialogue between cognitive and cellular neuroscience’.
- Accepted May 9, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.