Although often used as a nuisance in resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI), the global brain signal in humans and anesthetized animals has important neural basis. However, our knowledge of the global signal in awake rodents is sparse. To bridge this gap, we systematically analyzed rsfMRI data acquired with a conventional single-echo (SE) echo planar imaging (EPI) sequence in awake rats. The spatial pattern of rsfMRI frames during peaks of the global signal exhibited prominent co-activations in the thalamo-cortical and hippocampo-cortical networks, as well as in the basal forebrain, hinting that these neural networks might contribute to the global brain signal in awake rodents. To validate this concept, we acquired rsfMRI data using a multi-echo (ME) EPI sequence and removed non-neural components in the rsfMRI signal. Consistent co-activation patterns were obtained in extensively de-noised ME-rsfMRI data, corroborating the finding from SE-rsfMRI data. Furthermore, during rsfMRI experiments, we simultaneously recorded neural spiking activities in the hippocampus using GCaMP-based fiber photometry. The hippocampal calcium activity exhibited significant correspondence with the global rsfMRI signal. These data collectively suggest that the global rsfMRI signal contains significant neural components that involve coordinated activities in the thalamo-cortical and hippocampo-cortical networks. These results provide important insight into the neural substrate of the global brain signal in awake rodents.
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