Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

Imaging localized neuronal activity at fast time scales through biomechanics

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Science Advances  17 Apr 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 4, eaav3816
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav3816


Mapping neuronal activity noninvasively is a key requirement for in vivo human neuroscience. Traditional functional magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, with a temporal response of seconds, cannot measure high-level cognitive processes evolving in tens of milliseconds. To advance neuroscience, imaging of fast neuronal processes is required. Here, we show in vivo imaging of fast neuronal processes at 100-ms time scales by quantifying brain biomechanics noninvasively with MR elastography. We show brain stiffness changes of ~10% in response to repetitive electric stimulation of a mouse hind paw over two orders of frequency from 0.1 to 10 Hz. We demonstrate in mice that regional patterns of stiffness modulation are synchronous with stimulus switching and evolve with frequency. For very fast stimuli (100 ms), mechanical changes are mainly located in the thalamus, the relay location for afferent cortical input. Our results demonstrate a new methodology for noninvasively tracking brain functional activity at high speed.

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