Molecular-Level Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Dopaminergic Signaling

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Abstract

We demonstrate a technique for mapping brain activity that combines molecular specificity and spatial coverage using a neurotransmitter sensor detectable by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This molecular functional MRI (fMRI) method yielded time-resolved volumetric measurements of dopamine release evoked by reward-related lateral hypothalamic brain stimulation of rats injected with the neurotransmitter sensor. Peak dopamine concentrations and release rates were observed in the anterior nucleus accumbens core. Substantial dopamine transients were also present in more caudal areas. Dopamine-release amplitudes correlated with the rostrocaudal stimulation coordinate, suggesting participation of hypothalamic circuitry in modulating dopamine responses. This work provides a foundation for development and application of quantitative molecular fMRI techniques targeted toward numerous components of neural physiology.

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