Which "neural activity" do you mean? fMRI, MEG, oscillations and neurotransmitters

Neuroimage. 2012 Aug 15;62(2):1121-30. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.01.028. Epub 2012 Jan 9.


Over the last 20 years, BOLD-FMRI has proved itself to be a powerful and versatile tool for the study of the neural substrate underpinning many of our cognitive and perceptual functions. However, exactly how it is coupled to the underlying neurophysiology, and how this coupling varies across the brain, across tasks and across individuals is still unclear. The story is further complicated by the fact that within the same cortical region, multiple evoked and induced oscillatory effects may be modulated during task execution, supporting different cognitive roles, and any or all of these may have metabolic demands that then drive the BOLD response. In this paper I shall concentrate on one experimental approach to shedding light on this problem i.e. the execution of the same experimental tasks using MEG and fMRI in order to reveal which electrophysiological responses best match the BOLD response spatially, temporally and functionally. The results demonstrate a rich and complex story that does not fit with a simplistic view of BOLD reflecting "neural activity" and suggests that we could consider the coupling between BOLD and the various parameters of neural function as an ill-posed inverse problem. Finally, I describe recent work linking individual variability in both cortical oscillations and the BOLD-fMRI response to variability in endogenous GABA concentration.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping* / history
  • Brain Mapping* / methods
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / history
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Magnetoencephalography* / history
  • Magnetoencephalography* / methods
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents