The complex connectivity of the mammalian brain underlies its function, but understanding how interconnected brain regions interact in neural processing remains a formidable challenge. Here we address this problem by introducing a genetic probe that permits selective functional imaging of neural circuit elements defined by their synaptic interrelationships throughout the brain. The probe is an engineered enzyme that transduces cytosolic calcium dynamics of probe-expressing cells into localized hemodynamic responses that can be selectively visualized by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Using a viral vector that undergoes retrograde transport, we apply the probe to characterize a brain-wide network of monosynaptic inputs to the striatum activated in a deep brain stimulation paradigm in rats. The results reveal the engagement of surprisingly diverse projection sources and inform an integrated model of striatal function relevant to reward behavior and therapeutic neurostimulation approaches. Our work thus establishes a potent strategy for mechanistic analysis of distributed neural systems.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience