Shining new light on sensory brain activation and physiological measurement in seals using wearable optical technology
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Sensory ecology and physiology of free-ranging animals is challenging to study but underpins our understanding of decision making in the wild. Existing non-invasive human biomedical technology offers tools that could be harnessed to address these challenges. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), a wearable, non-invasive biomedical imaging technique measures oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin concentration changes that can be used to detect localised neural activation in the brain. We tested the efficacy of fNIRS to detect cortical activation in grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and identify regions of the cortex associated with different senses (vision, hearing and touch). Activation of specific cerebral areas in seals was detected by fNIRS in responses to light (vision), sound (hearing) and whisker stimulation (touch). Physiological parameters, including heart and breathing rate, were also extracted from the fNIRS signal, which allowed neural and physiological responses to be monitored simultaneously. This is the first time fNIRS has been used to detect cortical activation in a non-domesticated or laboratory animal. Since fNIRS is non-invasive and wearable, this study demonstrates its potential as a tool to quantitatively investigate sensory perception and brain function while simultaneously recording physiological dynamics that allow calculation of heart rate, tissue and arterial oxygen saturation of haemoglobin, respectively, perfusion changes and breathing rate in free-ranging animals.
McKnight , C , Ruesch , A , Bennett , K , Bronkhorst , M , Balfour , S T , Moss , S , Milne , R , Tyack , P L , Kainerstorfer , J & Hastie , G D 2021 , ' Shining new light on sensory brain activation and physiological measurement in seals using wearable optical technology ' , Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , vol. 376 , no. 1830 . https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2020.0224
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
© 2021 The Author(s). This work has been made available online in accordance with publisher policies or with permission. Permission for further reuse of this content should be sought from the publisher or the rights holder. This is the author created accepted manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2020.0224
DescriptionThis project was funded as part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment Programme. Supplementary funding supporting J.C.M. and P.L.T. was provided by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) grant nos N00014-18-1-2062 and N00014-20-1-2709. Supplementary funding supporting J.K. and A.R. was provided by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) grant no. N00014-19-1-1223. Assistance in funding for acquisition of the fNIRS system was provided by SMRU Consulting's 10th Anniversary Award.
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