Whole-brain mapping of behaviourally induced neural activation in mice

Brain Struct Funct. 2015 Jul;220(4):2043-57. doi: 10.1007/s00429-014-0774-0. Epub 2014 Apr 24.


The ability to visualize behaviourally evoked neural activity patterns across the rodent brain is essential for understanding the distributed brain networks mediating particular behaviours. However, current imaging methods are limited in their spatial resolution and/or ability to obtain brain-wide coverage of functional activity. Here, we describe a new automated method for obtaining cellular-level, whole-brain maps of behaviourally induced neural activity in the mouse. This method combines the use of transgenic immediate-early gene reporter mice to visualize neural activity; serial two-photon tomography to image the entire brain at cellular resolution; advanced image processing algorithms to count the activated neurons and align the datasets to the Allen Mouse Brain Atlas; and statistical analysis to identify the network of activated brain regions evoked by behaviour. We demonstrate the use of this approach to determine the whole-brain networks activated during the retrieval of fear memories. Consistent with previous studies, we identified a large network of amygdalar, hippocampal, and neocortical brain regions implicated in fear memory retrieval. Our proposed methods can thus be used to map cellular networks involved in the expression of normal behaviours as well as to investigate in depth circuit dysfunction in mouse models of neurobiological disease.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Complex / genetics
  • AIDS-Related Complex / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Benzofurans
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Quinolines
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • (3aS,4S,9bS)-N-(2-(8-cyano-1-formyl-2,3,3a,4,5,9b-hexahydro-1H-pyrrolo(3,2-c)quinolin-4-yl)-2-methylpropyl)-4,6-difluorobenzofuran-2-carboxyamide
  • Benzofurans
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Quinolines