BOLD responses to trigeminal nerve stimulation
The current study investigates a new model of barrel cortex activation using stimulation of the infraorbital branch of the trigeminal nerve. A robust and reproducible activation of the rat barrel cortex was obtained following trigeminal nerve stimulation. Blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) effects were obtained in the primary somatosensory barrel cortex (S1BF), the secondary somatosensory cortex (S2) and the motor cortex. These cortical areas were reached from afferent pathways from the trigeminal ganglion, the trigeminal nuclei and thalamic nuclei from which neurons project their axons upon whisker stimulation. The maximum BOLD responses were obtained for a stimulus frequency of 1 Hz, a stimulus pulse width of 100 μs and for current intensities between 1.5 and 3 mA. The BOLD response was nonlinear as a function of frequency and current intensity. Additionally, modeling BOLD responses in the rat barrel cortex from separate cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen (CMRO(2)) measurements showed good agreement with the shape and amplitude of measured BOLD responses as a function of stimulus frequency and will potentially allow to identify the sources of BOLD nonlinearities. Activation of the rat barrel cortex using trigeminal nerve stimulation will contribute to the interpretation of the BOLD signals from functional magnetic resonance imaging studies.