Task-free functional connectivity in animal models provides an experimental framework to examine connectivity phenomena under controlled conditions and allows for comparisons with data modalities collected under invasive or terminal procedures. Currently, animal acquisitions are performed with varying protocols and analyses that hamper result comparison and integration. Here we introduce StandardRat, a consensus rat functional magnetic resonance imaging acquisition protocol tested across 20 centers. To develop this protocol with optimized acquisition and processing parameters, we initially aggregated 65 functional imaging datasets acquired from rats across 46 centers. We developed a reproducible pipeline for analyzing rat data acquired with diverse protocols and determined experimental and processing parameters associated with the robust detection of functional connectivity across centers. We show that the standardized protocol enhances biologically plausible functional connectivity patterns relative to previous acquisitions. The protocol and processing pipeline described here is openly shared with the neuroimaging community to promote interoperability and cooperation toward tackling the most important challenges in neuroscience.
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Rats, Animals, Brain, Brain Mapping, Consensus, Neuroimaging, Magnetic Resonance Imaging