BOLD-fMRI in the mouse auditory pathway

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The auditory pathway is widely distributed throughout the brain, and is perhaps one of the most interesting networks in the context of neuroplasticity. Accurate mapping of neural activity in the entire pathway, preferably noninvasively, and with high resolution, could be instrumental for understanding such longitudinal processes. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has clear advantages for such characterizations, as it is noninvasive, provides relatively high spatial resolution and lends itself for repetitive studies, albeit relying on an indirect neurovascular coupling to deliver its information. Indeed, fMRI has been previously used to characterize the auditory pathway in humans and in rats. In the mouse, however, the auditory pathway has insofar only been mapped using manganese-enhanced MRI. Here, we describe a novel setup specifically designed for high-resolution mapping of the mouse auditory pathway using high-field fMRI. Robust and consistent Blood-Oxygenation-Level-Dependent (BOLD) responses were documented along nearly the entire auditory pathway, from the cochlear nucleus (CN), through the superior olivary complex (SOC), nuclei of the lateral lemniscus (LL), inferior colliculus (IC) and the medial geniculate body (MGB). By contrast, clear BOLD responses were not observed in auditory cortex (AC) in this study. Diverse BOLD latencies were mapped ROI- and pixel-wise using coherence analysis, evidencing different averaged BOLD time courses in different auditory centers. Some degree of tonotopy was identified in the IC, SOC, and MGB in the pooled dataset though it could not be assessed per subject due to a lack of statistical power. Given the importance of the mouse model in plasticity studies, animal models, and optogenetics, and fMRI's potential to map dynamic responses to specific cues, this first fMRI study of the mouse auditory pathway paves the way for future longitudinal studies studying brain-wide auditory-related activity in vivo.Graphical abstractHighlightsThe mouse auditory pathway is widespread and thus an interesting target for in vivo fMRI.We develop an auditory stimulation setup for studying the mouse auditory system at 9.4T.BOLD responses are clearly observed in most of the pathway except for auditory cortex.Coherence analysis revealed spatially specific phases, suggesting intricate connectivity.This facilitates future studies on the pathway’s plasticity in health and disease.

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