Mapping stress networks using functional magnetic resonance imaging in awake animals

David Dopfel, Nanyin Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The neurobiology of stress is studied through behavioral neuroscience, endocrinology, neuronal morphology and neurophysiology. There is a shift in focus toward progressive changes throughout stress paradigms and individual susceptibility to stress that requires methods that allow for longitudinal study design and study of individual differences in stress response. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), with the advantages of noninvasiveness and a large field of view, can be used for functionally mapping brain-wide regions and circuits critical to the stress response, making it suitable for longitudinal studies and understanding individual variability of short-term and long-term consequences of stress exposure. In addition, fMRI can be applied to both animals and humans, which is highly valuable in translating findings across species and examining whether the physiology and neural circuits involved in the stress response are conserved in mammals. However, compared to human fMRI studies, there are a number of factors that are essential for the success of fMRI studies in animals. This review discussed the use of fMRI in animal studies of stress. It reviewed advantages, challenges and technical considerations of the animal fMRI methodology as well as recent literature of stress studies using fMRI in animals. It also highlighted the development of combining fMRI with other methods and the future potential of fMRI in animal studies of stress. We conclude that animal fMRI studies, with their flexibility, low cost and short time frame compared to human studies, are crucial to advancing our understanding of the neurobiology of stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-263
Number of pages13
JournalNeurobiology of Stress
StatePublished - Nov 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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