The rabbit as a behavioral model system for magnetic resonance imaging

Craig Weiss*, Daniel Procissi, John M. Power, John F. Disterhoft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: fMRI requires that subjects not move during image acquisition. This has been achieved by instructing people not to move, or by anesthetizing experimental animal subjects to induce immobility. We have demonstrated that a surgically implanted headbolt onto the skull of a rabbit allows their brain to be imaged comfortably while the animal is awake. This article provides a detailed method for the preparation. New method: We took advantage of the rabbit's tolerance for restraint to image the brain while holding the head at the standard stereotaxic angle. Visual stimulation was produced by flashing green LEDs and whisker stimulation was done by powering a small coil of wire attached to a fiber band. Blinking was recorded with an infrared emitter/detector directed at the eye with fiber-optic cabling. Results: Results indicate that a single daily session of habituation is sufficient to produce adequate immobility on subsequent days to avoid movement artifacts. Results include high resolution images in the stereotaxic plane of the rabbit. Comparison with existing method(s): We see no degradation or distortion of MR signal, and the headbolt provides a means for rapid realignment of the head in the magnet from day to day, and across subjects. The use of rabbits instead of rodents allows much shorter periods of habituation, and the rabbit allows behavior to be observed during the day while the animal is in its normal wake cycle. Conclusions: The natural tolerance of the rabbit for restraint makes it a valuable subject for MRI studies of the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-205
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
StatePublished - Apr 15 2018


  • AFNI
  • Animal models
  • BOLD imaging
  • FSL
  • Functional connectivity
  • Manganese enhanced magnetic resonance imaging
  • Stereotaxic atlas
  • Whisker stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'The rabbit as a behavioral model system for magnetic resonance imaging'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this