Light stimulus frequency dependence of activity in the rat visual system as studied with high-resolution BOLD fMRI

J Neurophysiol. 2006 May;95(5):3164-70. doi: 10.1152/jn.00400.2005. Epub 2006 Jan 4.


The neurophysiology of the rodent visual system has mainly been investigated by invasive and ex-vivo techniques providing fragmented data. This area of research has been deprived of functional MRI studies based on blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) contrast, which allows a whole brain approach with a high spatial and temporal resolution. In the present study, we looked at the neurovascular response properties of the visual system of the pigmented rat, focusing on the visual cortex (VC), the superior colliculus (SC) and the flocculus-paraflocculus of the cerebellum (FL-PFL), using BOLD fMRI under domitor anesthesia. Visual stimulation was performed monocularly or binocularly while flashing light from a strobe unit was presented. For each structure, we assessed the flashing frequency that evoked the optimal BOLD response: Neither the VC nor the FL-PFL displayed frequency dependence during monocular visual stimulation, but were most sensitive to low frequencies (1-5 Hz) when flashing light was provided binocularly. The SC responded optimally to high flashing rates (8-12 Hz) during both monocular and binocular stimulation. The signal intensity changes in the VC and FL-PFL were locked to the stimulation period, whereas the BOLD response in the SC showed a similar onset but a very slow recovery at offset. The VC and FL-PFL, but not the SC, showed signs of binocular competition. The observed correlation between frequency-dependent responses of different visual areas during binocular visual presentation suggests a functional relationship between the VC and FL-PFL rather than between the SC and FL-PFL.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / radiation effects
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Pathways / blood supply*
  • Visual Pathways / radiation effects*


  • Oxygen