MR imaging of the rat forepaw and brain was carried out with a Bruker 7 T/40 cm horizontal magnet (ClinScan, Bruker BioSpin, Germany). The functional changes of the rat brain were studied using parameters as previously reported [14]. Briefly, anesthesia was given to the rats during the experiments with isoflurane (1.75–2.5%) mixed with air. The respiratory rate and heart rate were monitored and recorded during scans. The rat body temperature was maintained and surveilled at about 37°C during the imaging session. MRI scans were started when physiological parameters stabilized for at least 10 minutes. Blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) contrast-sensitive T2∗-weighted gradient-echo echo-planar images were acquired for resting-state fMRI scans. Each scan consisted of 300 volumes of 14 slice acquisitions (repetition time (TR) of 1.3 seconds, echo time (TE) of 25 milliseconds, flip angle = 60°, 1.0 mm slice thickness, and 0.5 × 0.5 mm2 in-plane resolution). A high-resolution T2-weighted RARE anatomical reference was acquired for each animal (1.0 mm slice thickness and 0.273 × 0.273 mm2 in-plane resolution). An additional T2-weighted RARE anatomical scan with the same geometry as the functional image (1 mm slice thickness and 0.5 × 0.5 mm2 in-plane resolution) was also acquired and used as a low-resolution anatomical reference.

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