The relationship between BOLD and neural activity arises from temporally sparse events

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Resting state functional magnetic resonance (rs-fMRI) imaging offers insights into how different brain regions are connected into functional networks. It was recently shown that networks that are almost identical to the ones created from conventional correlation analysis can be obtained from a subset of high-amplitude data, suggesting that the functional networks may be driven by instantaneous co-activations of multiple brain regions rather than ongoing oscillatory processes. The rs-fMRI studies, however, rely on the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal, which is only indirectly sensitive to neural activity through neurovascular coupling. To provide more direct evidence that the neuronal co-activation events produce the time-varying network patterns seen in rs-fMRI studies, we examined the simultaneous rs-fMRI and local field potential (LFP) recordings in rats performed in our lab over the past several years. We developed complementary analysis methods that focus on either the temporal or spatial domain, and found evidence that the interaction between LFP and BOLD may be driven by instantaneous co-activation events as well. BOLD maps triggered on high-amplitude LFP events resemble co-activation patterns created from rs-fMRI data alone, though the co-activation time points are defined differently in the two cases. Moreover, only LFP events that fall into the highest or lowest thirds of the amplitude distribution result in a BOLD signal that can be distinguished from noise. These findings provide evidence of an electrophysiological basis for the time-varying co-activation patterns observed in previous studies.




Zhang, X., Pan, W. J., & Keilholz, S. D. (2020). The relationship between BOLD and neural activity arises from temporally sparse events. NeuroImage, 207, 116390.

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