Neural correlate of resting-state functional connectivity under α2 adrenergic receptor agonist, medetomidine

Neuroimage. 2014 Jan 1;84:27-34. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.08.004. Epub 2013 Aug 13.


Correlative fluctuations in functional MRI (fMRI) signals across the brain at rest have been taken as a measure of functional connectivity, but the neural basis of this resting-state MRI (rsMRI) signal is not clear. Previously, we found that the α2 adrenergic agonist, medetomidine, suppressed the rsMRI correlation dose-dependently but not the stimulus evoked activation. To understand the underlying electrophysiology and neurovascular coupling, which might be altered due to the vasoconstrictive nature of medetomidine, somatosensory evoked potential (SEP) and resting electroencephalography (EEG) were measured and correlated with corresponding BOLD signals in rat brains under three dosages of medetomidine. The SEP elicited by electrical stimulation to both forepaws was unchanged regardless of medetomidine dosage, which was consistent with the BOLD activation. Identical relationship between the SEP and BOLD signal under different medetomidine dosages indicates that the neurovascular coupling was not affected. Under resting state, EEG power was the same but a depression of inter-hemispheric EEG coherence in the gamma band was observed at higher medetomidine dosage. Different from medetomidine, both resting EEG power and BOLD power and coherence were significantly suppressed with increased isoflurane level. Such reduction was likely due to suppressed neural activity as shown by diminished SEP and BOLD activation under isoflurane, suggesting different mechanisms of losing synchrony at resting-state. Even though, similarity between electrophysiology and BOLD under stimulation and resting-state implicates a tight neurovascular coupling in both medetomidine and isoflurane. Our results confirm that medetomidine does not suppress neural activity but dissociates connectivity in the somatosensory cortex. The differential effect of medetomidine and its receptor specific action supports the neuronal origin of functional connectivity and implicates the mechanism of its sedative effect.

Keywords: Adrenergic receptor; Electrophysiology; Functional MRI; Functional connectivity; Neurovascular coupling; Resting state; Somatosensory evoked potentials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Animals
  • Connectome / methods
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Male
  • Medetomidine / administration & dosage*
  • Nerve Net / drug effects
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Rest / physiology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / drug effects
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*


  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Medetomidine