Background: To understand brain function in health and disease, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is widely used in rodent models. Because animals need to be immobilised for image acquisition, fMRI is commonly performed under anaesthesia. The choice of anaesthetic protocols and may affect fMRI readouts, either directly or via changing physiological balance, and thereby threaten the scientific validity of fMRI in rodents.
Methods: The present study systematically reviewed the literature investigating the influence of different anaesthesia regimes and changes in physiological parameters as confounders of blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) fMRI in rats and mice. Four databases were searched, studies selected according to pre-defined criteria, and risk of bias assessed for each study. Results are reported in two separate articles; this part of the review focuses on effects of changes in physiological parameters.
Results: A total of 121 publications was included, of which 49 addressed effects of changes in physiological parameters. Risk of bias was high in all included studies. Blood oxygenation [arterial partial pressure of oxygen (paO2)], ventilation [arterial partial pressure of carbon dioxide (paCO2)] and arterial blood pressure affected BOLD fMRI readouts across various experimental paradigms.
Conclusions: Blood oxygenation, ventilation and arterial blood pressure should be monitored and maintained at stable physiological levels throughout experiments. Appropriate anaesthetic management and monitoring are crucial to obtain scientifically valid, reproducible results from fMRI studies in rodent models.