Neuroimage. 2013 Feb 02. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.01.035. [Epub ahead of print]

Somatosensory evoked changes in cerebral oxygen consumption measured non-invasively in premature neonates

Roche-Labarbe N, Fenoglio A, Radhakrishnan H, Kocienski-Filip M, Carp SA, Dubb J, Boas DA, Grant PE, Franceschini MA.


The hemodynamic functional response is used as a reliable marker of neuronal activity in countless studies of brain function and cognition. In newborns and infants, however, conflicting results have appeared in the literature concerning the typical response, and there is little information on brain metabolism and functional activation. Measurement of all hemodynamic components and oxygen metabolism is critical for understanding neurovascular coupling in the developing brain. To this end, we combined multiple near infrared spectroscopy techniques to measure oxy- and deoxy-hemoglobin concentrations, cerebral blood volume (CBV), and relative cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the somatosensory cortex of 6 preterm neonates during passive tactile stimulation of the hand. By combining these measures we estimated relative changes in the cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen consumption (rCMRO(2)). CBF starts increasing immediately after stimulus onset, and returns to baseline before blood volume. This is consistent with the model of pre-capillary arteriole active dilation driving the CBF response, with a subsequent CBV increase influenced by capillaries and veins dilating passively to accommodate the extra blood. rCMRO(2) estimated using the steady-state formulation shows a biphasic pattern: an increase immediately after stimulus onset, followed by a post-stimulus undershoot due to blood flow returning faster to baseline than oxygenation. However, assuming a longer mean transit time from the arterial to the venous compartment, due to the immature vascular system of premature infants, reduces the post-stimulus undershoot and increases the flow/consumption ratio to values closer to adult values reported in the literature. We are the first to report changes in local rCBF and rCMRO(2) during functional activation in preterm infants. The ability to measure these variables in addition to hemoglobin concentration changes is critical for understanding neurovascular coupling in the developing brain, and for using this coupling as a reliable functional imaging marker in neonates.

PMID: 23370052