High-resolution fMRI maps of cortical activation in nonhuman primates: correlation with intrinsic signal optical images

ILAR J. 2008;49(1):116-23. doi: 10.1093/ilar.49.1.116.


One of the most widely used functional brain mapping tools is blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This method has contributed to new understandings of the functional roles of different areas in the human brain. However, its ability to map cerebral cortex at high spatial (submillimeter) resolution is still unknown. Other methods such as single- and multiunit electrophysiology and intrinsic signal optical imaging have revealed submillimeter resolution of sensory topography and cortical columnar activations. However, they are limited either by spatial scale (electrophysiology characterizes only local groups of neurons) or by the inability to monitor deep structures in the brain (i.e., cortical regions buried in sulci or subcortical structures). A method that could monitor all regions of the brain at high spatial resolution would be ideal. This capacity would open the doors to investigating, for example, how networks of cerebral cortical columns relate to or produce behavior. In this article we demonstrate that, without benefit of contrast agents, at a magnetic field strength of 9.4 tesla, BOLD fMRI can reveal millimeter-sized topographic maps of digit representation in the somatosensory cortex of the anesthetized squirrel monkey. Furthermore, by mapping the "funneling illusion," it is possible to detect even submillimeter shifts in activation in the cortex. Our data suggest that at high magnetic field strength, the positive BOLD signal can be used to reveal high spatial resolution maps of brain activity, a finding that weakens previous notions about the ultimate spatial specificity of the positive BOLD signal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electrophysiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Primates
  • Somatosensory Cortex / pathology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiopathology*