In the present study we mapped brain functional connectivity in the conscious rat at the " resting state" based on intrinsic blood-oxygenation-level dependent (BOLD) fluctuations. The conscious condition eliminated potential confounding effects of anesthetic agents on the connectivity between brain regions. Indeed, using correlational analysis we identified multiple cortical and subcortical regions that demonstrated temporally synchronous variation with anatomically well-defined regions that are crucial to cognitive and emotional information processing including the prefrontal cortex (PFC), thalamus and retrosplenial cortex. The functional connectivity maps created were stringently validated by controlling for false positive detection of correlation, the physiologic basis of the signal source, as well as quantitatively evaluating the reproducibility of maps. Taken together, the present study has demonstrated the feasibility of assessing functional connectivity in conscious animals using fMRI and thus provided a convenient and non-invasive tool to systematically investigate the connectional architecture of selected brain networks in multiple animal models.
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