A systematic review of physiological methods in rodent pharmacological MRI studies

Jennifer X Haensel, Aisling Spain, Chris Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Citations (SciVal)


RATIONALE: Pharmacological magnetic resonance imaging (phMRI) provides an approach to study effects of drug challenges on brain processes. Elucidating mechanisms of drug action helps us to better understand the workings of neurotransmitter systems, map brain function or facilitate drug development. phMRI is increasingly used in preclinical research employing rodent models; however, data interpretation and integration are complicated by the use of different experimental approaches between laboratories. In particular, the effects of different anaesthetic regimes upon neuronal and haemodynamic processes and baseline physiology could be problematic.

OBJECTIVES: This paper investigates how differences in phMRI research methodologies are manifested and considers associated implications, placing particular emphasis on choice of anaesthetic regimes.

METHODS: A systematic review of rodent phMRI studies was conducted. Factors such as those describing anaesthetic regimes (e.g. agent, dosage) and parameters relating to physiological maintenance (e.g. ventilatory gases) and MRI method were recorded.

RESULTS: We identified 126 eligible studies and found that the volatile agents isoflurane (43.7 %) and halothane (33.3 %) were most commonly used for anaesthesia, but dosage and mixture of ventilatory gases varied substantially between laboratories. Relevant physiological parameters were usually recorded, although 32 % of studies did not provide cardiovascular measures.

CONCLUSIONS: Anaesthesia and animal preparation can influence phMRI data profoundly. The variation of anaesthetic type, dosage regime and ventilatory gases makes consolidation of research findings (e.g. within a specific neurotransmitter system) difficult. Standardisation of a small(er) number of preclinical phMRI research methodologies and/or increased consideration of approaches that do not require anaesthesia is necessary to address these challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-499
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Early online date15 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2015


  • Anesthesia/methods
  • Brain/drug effects
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods
  • Neuropharmacology/methods


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