Functional atlas of the awake rat brain: A neuroimaging study of rat brain specialization and integration

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Connectivity-based parcellation approaches present an innovative method to segregate the brain into functionally specialized regions. These approaches have significantly advanced our understanding of the human brain organization. However, parallel progress in animal research is sparse. Using resting-state fMRI data and a novel, data-driven parcellation method, we have obtained robust functional parcellations of the rat brain. These functional parcellations reveal the regional specialization of the rat brain, which exhibited high within-parcel homogeneity and high reproducibility across animals. Graph analysis of the whole-brain network constructed based on these functional parcels indicates that the rat brain has a topological organization similar to humans, characterized by both segregation and integration. Our study also provides compelling evidence that the cingulate cortex is a functional hub region conserved from rodents to humans. Together, this study has characterized the rat brain specialization and integration, and has significantly advanced our understanding of the rat brain organization. In addition, it is valuable for studies of comparative functional neuroanatomy in mammalian brains.

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