Implementation of spin-echo blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) functional MRI in birds
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences . Biomedical Sciences
NMR in biomedicine. - London
, p. 1027-1032
University of Antwerp
The advent of high-field MRI systems has allowed the implementation of blood oxygen level-dependent functional MRI (BOLD fMRI) on small animals. An increased magnetic field improves the signal-to-noise ratio and thus allows an improvement in the spatial resolution. However, it also increases susceptibility artefacts in the commonly acquired gradient-echo images. This problem is particularly prominent in songbird MRI because of the presence of numerous air cavities in the skull of birds. These T2*-related image artefacts can be circumvented using spin-echo BOLD fMRI. In this article, we describe the implementation of spin-echo BOLD fMRI in zebra finches, a small songbird of 1525 g, extensively studied in the behavioural neurosciences of birdsong. Because the main topics in this research domain are song perception and song learning, the protocol implemented used auditory stimuli. Despite the auditory nature of the stimuli and the weak contrast-to-noise ratio of spin-echo BOLD fMRI compared with gradient-echo BOLD fMRI, we succeeded in detecting statistically significant differences in BOLD responses triggered by different stimuli. This study shows that spin-echo BOLD fMRI is a viable approach for the investigation of auditory processing in the whole brain of small songbirds. It can also be applied to study auditory processing in other small animals, as well as other sensory modalities.