Optimization of anesthesia protocol for resting-state fMRI in mice based on differential effects of anesthetics on functional connectivity patterns

Neuroimage. 2014 Nov 15;102 Pt 2:838-47. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.08.043. Epub 2014 Aug 28.


Resting state-fMRI (rs-fMRI) in mice allows studying mechanisms underlying functional connectivity (FC) as well as alterations of FC occurring in murine models of neurological diseases. Mouse fMRI experiments are typically carried out under anesthesia to minimize animal movement and potential distress during examination. Yet, anesthesia inevitably affects FC patterns. Such effects have to be understood for proper interpretation of data. We have compared the influence of four commonly used anesthetics on rs-fMRI. Rs-fMRI data acquired under isoflurane, propofol, and urethane presented similar patterns when accounting for anesthesia depth. FC maps displayed bilateral correlation with respect to cortical seeds, but no significant inter-hemispheric striatal connectivity. In contrast, for medetomidine, we detected bilateral striatal but compromised inter-hemispheric cortical connectivity. The spatiotemporal patterns of the rs-fMRI signal have been rationalized considering anesthesia depth and pharmacodynamic properties of the anesthetics. Our results bridge the results from different studies from the burgeoning field of mouse rs-fMRI and offer a framework for understanding the influences of anesthetics on FC patterns. Utilizing this information, we suggest the combined use of medetomidine and isoflurane representing the two proposed classes of anesthetics; the combination of low doses of the two anesthetics retained strong correlations both within cortical and subcortical structures, without the potential seizure-inducing effects of medetomidine, rendering this regimen an attractive anesthesia for rs-fMRI in mice.

Keywords: Anesthesia; Functional connectivity; Mouse; Resting state-fMRI.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / standards
  • Anesthetics / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Female
  • Isoflurane / pharmacology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Medetomidine / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Net / drug effects*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Propofol / pharmacology
  • Rest / physiology
  • Urethane / pharmacology


  • Anesthetics
  • Urethane
  • Isoflurane
  • Medetomidine
  • Propofol