Loss of function and subsequent spontaneous recovery after stroke have been associated with physiological and anatomical alterations in neuronal networks in the brain. However, the spatiotemporal pattern of such changes has been incompletely characterized. Manganese-enhanced MRI (MEMRI) provides a unique tool forin vivoinvestigation of neuronal connectivity.
In this study, we measured manganese-induced changes in longitudinal relaxation rate,R1, to assess the spatiotemporal pattern of manganese distribution after focal injection into the intact sensorimotor cortex in control rats (n=10), and in rats at 2 weeks after 90-min unilateral occlusion of the middle cerebral artery (n=10). MEMRI data were compared with results from conventional tract tracing with wheat-germ agglutinin horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP).
Distinct areas of the sensorimotor pathway were clearly visualized with MEMRI. At 2 weeks after stroke, manganese-induced changes inR1 were significantly delayed and diminished in the ipsilateral caudate putamen, thalamus and substantia nigra. Loss of connectivity between areas of the sensorimotor network was also identified from reduced WGA-HRP staining in these areas onpost-mortembrain sections. This study demonstrates that MEMRI enablesin vivoassessment of spatiotemporal alterations in neuronal connectivity after stroke, which may lead to improved insights in mechanisms underlying functional loss and recovery after stroke.