Electrical stimulation of the rat forepaw and hindpaw was employed to study the spatial distribution of BOLD fMRI. Averaging of multiple fMRI sessions significantly improved the spatial stability of the BOLD signal and enabled quantitative determination of the boundaries of the BOLD fMRI maps. The averaged BOLD fMRI signal was distributed unevenly over the extent of the map and the data at the boundaries could be modeled with major and minor spatial components. Comparison of three-dimensional echo-planar imaging (EPI) fMRI at isotropic 300 μm resolution demonstrated that the border locations of the major spatial component of BOLD signal did not overlap between the forepaw and hindpaw maps. Interestingly, the border positions of the minor BOLD fMRI spatial components extended significantly into neighboring representations. Similar results were found for cerebral blood volume (CBV) weighted fMRI obtained using iron oxide particles, suggesting that the minor spatial components may not be due to vascular mislocalization typically associated with BOLD fMRI. Comparison of the BOLD fMRI maps of the forepaw and hindpaw to histological determination of these representations using cytochrome oxidase (CO) staining demonstrated that the major spatial component of the BOLD fMRI activation maps accurately localizes the borders. Finally, 2-3 weeks following peripheral nerve denervation, cortical reorganization/plasticity at the boundaries of somatosensory limb representations in adult rat brain was studied. Denervation of the hindpaw caused a growth in the major component of forepaw representation into the adjacent border of hindpaw representation, such that fitting to two components no longer led to a better fit as compared to using one major component. The border of the representation after plasticity was the same as the border of its minor component in the absence of any plasticity. It is possible that the minor components represent either vascular effects that extend from the real neuronal representations or the neuronal communication between neighboring regions. Either way the results will be useful for studying mechanisms of plasticity that cause alterations in the boundaries of neuronal representations.
Published by Elsevier Inc.