Perforant pathway stimulation as a conditioned stimulus for active avoidance learning triggers BOLD responses in various target regions of the hippocampus: A combined fMRI and electrophysiological study

… Heating was provided from the ventral side and heart rate, breathing rate, and oxygen
saturation was monitored during the whole experiment using an MRI-compatible pulse
oxymeter (MouseOx TM , Starr Life Sciences Corp. Pittsbugh PA, USA). … Functional magnetic resonance imaging and electrophysiology were combined to monitor blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signals in the entire rat brain and neuronal activities in the dentate gyrus during electrical stimulation of the right perforant pathway. In naïve, medetomidine sedated animals, stimulation of the fiber bundle with 15 trains (i.e. 8 bursts of 20 pulses given with 10 ms intervals, one burst per second, pulse width 0.2 ms) generated significant BOLD responses in the right hippocampal formation and the left entorhinal cortex. The stimulation condition also caused changes in the synaptic efficacy of perforant pathway granular cell synapses that lasted for at least one day. Rerun of the same experiment one day later resulted in a significantly increased electrophysiological response in the dentate gyrus and an increase of the BOLD response in the entire hippocampal formation. Consequently, long-lasting changes in synaptic efficacy go along with changes in the generated BOLD response. Additional electrical stimulations of the perforant pathway in the awake animal between the two fMRI experiments caused in the second fMRI measurement an increased BOLD response in the hippocampal formation and an appearance of significant BOLD responses in target regions of the hippocampus, such as the septum, nucleus accumbens (NAcc), and anterior cingulate cortex/medial prefrontal cortex/motor cortex (ACC/mPFC/MC) regions. Consequently, the efficacy of signal processing in and propagation through the hippocampus can be monitored by variations of the BOLD response in target regions of the hippocampus. Using the electrical perforant pathway stimulations as conditioned stimulus for an active avoidance task (shuttle box) caused a further spreading of the BOLD response in the hippocampus formation, septum and ACC/mPFC/MC but not in the NAcc. In addition, the magnitude of the BOLD response in the trained animals was further increased in the right and left hippocampus and the ACC/mPFC/MC region but not in the septum. These results demonstrate that in addition to general stimulus parameter the behavioral relevance of the stimulus controls the quality of the generated BOLD response.