Detection of memory- and learning-related brain connectivity changes following trace eyeblink-conditioning using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging in the awake rabbit

Nicola Bertolino*, Daniele Procissi, John F. Disterhoft, Craig Weiss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Animal imaging studies have the potential to further establish resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI) and enable its validation for clinical use. The rabbit subjects used in this work are an ideal model system for studying learning and behavior and are also an excellent established test subject for awake scanning given their natural tolerance for restraint. We found that analysis of rs-fMRI conducted on a cohort of rabbits undergoing eyeblink conditioning can reveal functional brain connectivity changes associated with learning, and that rs-fMRI can be used to capture differences between subjects with different levels of cognitive performance. rs-fMRI sessions were conducted on a cohort of rabbits before and after trace eyeblink conditioning. MRI results were analyzed using independent component analysis (ICA) and network analysis. Behavioral data were collected with standard methods using an infrared reflective sensor aimed at the cornea to detect blinks. Behavioral results were analyzed, and a median split was used to create two groups of rabbits based on their performance. The cohort of rabbits undergoing eyeblink conditioning exhibited increased functional connectivity in the cingulate cortex, retrosplenial cortex, and thalamus consistent with brain reorganization associated with increased learning. Differences in the striatum and right cerebellum were also identified between rabbits in the top or bottom halves of the group as measured by the behavioral assay. Thus, rs-fMRI can provide not only a tool to detect and monitor functional brain changes associated with learning, but also to discriminate between different levels of cognitive performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1597-1606
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Volume529
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2021

Keywords

  • fMRI
  • functional connectivity
  • intrinsic connectivity
  • learning
  • resting-state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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