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Keywords:

  • molecular imaging;
  • neuroimaging;
  • receptor distribution;
  • rodents;
  • signal transduction

Abstract

Multimodal non-invasive neuroimaging in rodents constitutes an attractive tool for studying neurobiological processes in vivo. At present, imaging studies of brain anatomy and function as well as the investigation of structure–function relationships belong to the standard repertoire of neuroscientists. Molecular imaging adds a new perspective. The mapping of the receptor distribution and receptor occupancy can nowadays be complemented by specific readouts of receptor function either by visualizing the activity of signaling pathways or mapping the physiological consequences of receptor stimulation. Molecular information is obtained through the use of imaging probes that combine a target-specific ligand with a reporter moiety that generates a signal that can be detected from outside the body. For imaging probes targeting the central nervous system, penetration of the intact blood–brain barrier constitutes a major hurdle. Molecular imaging generates specific information and therefore has a large potential for disease phenotyping (diagnostics), therapy development and monitoring of treatment response. Molecular imaging is still in its infancy and major developments in imaging technology, probe design and data analysis are required in order to make an impact. Rodent molecular neuroimaging will play an important role in the development of these tools.