Structure–function relationship of cerebral networks in experimental neuroscience: Contribution of magnetic resonance imaging

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Abstract

The analysis of neuronal networks, their interactions in resting condition as well as during brain activation have become of great interest for a better understanding of the signal processing of the brain during sensory stimulus or cognitive tasks. Parallel to the study of the functional networks and their dynamics, the underlying network structure is highly important as it provides the basis of the functional interaction. Moreover, under pathological conditions, some nodes in such a net may be impaired and the function of the whole network affected. Mechanisms such as functional deficit and improvement, and plastic reorganization are increasingly discussed in the context of existing structural and functional networks. While many of these aspects have been followed in human and clinical studies, the experimental range is limited for obvious reasons. Here, animal experimental studies are needed as they permit longer scan times and, moreover, comparison with invasive histology. Experimental non-invasive imaging modalities are now able to perform impressive contributions. In this review we try to highlight most recent new cutting-edge developments and applications in experimental neuroscience of functional and structural networks of the brain, relying on non-invasive imaging. We focus primarily on the potential of experimental Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), but also touch upon micro positron emission tomography (μPET) and optical imaging developments where they are applicable to the topic of the present review.

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