Strategies for sensing neurotransmitters with responsive MRI contrast agents
A great deal of research involving multidisciplinary approaches is currently dedicated to the understanding of brain function. The complexity of physiological processes that underlie neural activity is the greatest hurdle to faster advances. Among imaging techniques, MRI has great potential to enable mapping of neural events with excellent specificity, spatiotemporal resolution and unlimited tissue penetration depth. To this end, molecular imaging approaches using neurotransmitter-sensitive MRI agents have appeared recently to study neuronal activity, along with the first successful in vivo MRI studies. Here, we review the pioneering steps in the development of molecular MRI methods that could allow functional imaging of the brain by sensing the neurotransmitter activity directly. We provide a brief overview of other imaging and analytical methods to detect neurotransmitter activity, and describe the approaches to sense neurotransmitters by means of molecular MRI agents. Based on these initial steps, further progress in probe chemistry and the emergence of innovative imaging methods to directly monitor neurotransmitters can be envisaged.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Primer