Novel method for functional brain imaging in awake minimally restrained rats

Pei Ching Chang, Daniel Procissi, Qiyuan Bao, Maria Virginia Centeno, Alex Baria, A. Vania Apkarian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in rodents holds great promise for advancing our knowledge about human brain function. However, the use of anesthetics to immobilize rodents during fMRI experiments has restricted the type of questions that can be addressed using this technique. Here we describe an innovative procedure to train rats to be constrained without the need of any anesthesia during the whole procedure. We show that with 8-10 days of acclimation rats can be conscious and remain still during fMRI experiments under minimal stress. In addition, we provide fMRI results of conscious rodents in a variety of commonly used fMRI experimental paradigms, and we demonstrate the improved quality of these scans by comparing results when the same rodents were scanned under anesthesia. We confirm that the awake scanning procedure permits an improved evaluation of brain networks and brain response to external stimuli with minimal movement artifact. The present study further advances the field of fMRI in awake rodents, which provide more direct, forward and reverse, translational opportunities regarding brain functional correspondences between human and rodent research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-80
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Awake rat
  • Functional MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology

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