Recent human neuroimaging studies indicate that spontaneous fluctuations in neural activity, as measured by functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI), are significantly affected following stroke. Disrupted functional connectivity is associated with behavioral deficits and has been linked to long-term recovery potential. FcMRI studies of stroke in rats have generally produced similar findings, although subacute cortical reorganization following focal ischemia appears to be more rapid than in humans. Similar studies in mice have not been published, most likely because fMRI in the small mouse brain is technically challenging. Extending functional connectivity methods to mouse models of stroke could provide a valuable tool for understanding the link between molecular mechanisms of stroke repair and human fcMRI findings at the system level. We applied functional connectivity optical intrinsic signal imaging (fcOIS) to mice before and 72 h after transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAO) to examine how graded ischemic injury affects the relationship between functional connectivity and infarct volume, stimulus-induced response, and behavior. Regional changes in functional connectivity within the MCA territory were largely proportional to infarct volume. However, subcortical damage affected functional connectivity in the somatosensory cortex as much as larger infarcts of cortex and subcortex. The extent of injury correlated with cortical activations following electrical stimulation of the affected forelimb and with functional connectivity in the somatosensory cortex. Regional homotopic functional connectivity in motor cortex correlated with behavioral deficits measured using an adhesive patch removal test. Spontaneous hemodynamic activity within the infarct exhibited altered temporal and spectral features in comparison to intact tissue; failing to account for these regional differences significantly affected apparent post-stroke functional connectivity measures. Thus, several results were strongly dependent on how the resting-state data were processed. Specifically, global signal regression alone resulted in apparently distorted functional connectivity measures in the intact hemisphere. These distortions were corrected by regressing out multiple sources of variance, as performed in human fcMRI. We conclude that fcOIS provides a sensitive imaging modality in the murine stroke model; however, it is necessary to properly account for altered hemodynamics in injured brain to obtain accurate measures of functional connectivity.
Keywords: Functional connectivity; Functional recovery; Global signal regression; Mice; Stroke.
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