Functional MRI of visual responses in the awake, behaving marmoset
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The visual brain is composed of interconnected subcortical and cortical structures that receive and process image information originating in the retina. The visual system of nonhuman primates, in particular macaques, has been studied in great detail in order to elucidate principles of human sensation and perception. The common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) is a small New World monkey of growing interest as a primate model for neuroscience. Marmosets have advantages over macaques because of their small size, lissencephalic cortex, and growing potential for viral and genetic manipulations. Previous anatomical studies and electrophysiological recordings in anesthetized marmosets have shown that this species' cortical visual hierarchy closely resembles that of other primates, including humans. Until now, however, there have been no attempts to systematically study visual responses throughout the marmoset brain using fMRI. Here we show that awake marmosets readily learn to carry out a simple visual task inside the bore of an MRI scanner during functional mapping experiments. Functional scanning at 500 μm in-plane resolution in a 30 cm horizontal bore at 7 T revealed robust positive blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI responses to visual stimuli throughout visual cortex and associated subcortical areas. Nonvisual sensory areas showed negative contrasts to visual stimuli compared to the fixation dot only baseline. Structured images of objects and faces led to stronger responses than scrambled control images at stages beyond early visual cortex. Our study establishes fMRI mapping of visual responses in awake, behaving marmosets as a straightforward and valuable tool for assessing the functional organization of the primate brain at high resolution.
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