Neural inhibition can explain negative BOLD responses: A mechanistic modelling and fMRI study

Neuroimage. 2017 Sep;158:219-231. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.07.002. Epub 2017 Jul 4.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of hemodynamic changes captured in the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response contains information of brain activity. The BOLD response is the result of a complex neurovascular coupling and comes in at least two fundamentally different forms: a positive and a negative deflection. Because of the complexity of the signaling, mathematical modelling can provide vital help in the data analysis. For the positive BOLD response, there are plenty of mathematical models, both physiological and phenomenological. However, for the negative BOLD response, no physiologically based model exists. Here, we expand our previously developed physiological model with the most prominent mechanistic hypothesis for the negative BOLD response: the neural inhibition hypothesis. The model was trained and tested on experimental data containing both negative and positive BOLD responses from two studies: 1) a visual-motor task and 2) a working-memory task in conjunction with administration of the tranquilizer diazepam. Our model was able to predict independent validation data not used for training and provides a mechanistic underpinning for previously observed effects of diazepam. The new model moves our understanding of the negative BOLD response from qualitative reasoning to a quantitative systems-biology level, which can be useful both in basic research and in clinical use.

Keywords: Blood oxygen level dependent response; Cerebral blood flow; GABA; Hemodynamic response; Neurovascular coupling; Systems biology; fMRI; glutamate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neurovascular Coupling / physiology*
  • Systems Biology / methods