Functional magnetic resonance imaging based on changes in vascular space occupancy

Hanzhang Lu, Xavier Golay, James J. Pekar, Peter C M Van Zijl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

333 Scopus citations


During brain activation, local control of oxygen delivery is facilitated through microvascular dilatation and constriction. A new functional MRI (fMRI) methodology is reported that is sensitive to these microvascular adjustments. This contrast is accomplished by eliminating the blood signal in a manner that is independent of blood oxygenation and flow. As a consequence, changes in cerebral blood volume (CBV) can be assessed through changes in the remaining extravascular water signal (i.e., that of parenchymal tissue) without need for exogenous contrast agents or any other invasive procedures. The feasibility of this vascular space occupancy (VASO)-dependent functional MRI (fMRI) approach is demonstrated for visual stimulation, breath-hold (hypercapnia), and hyperventilation (hypocapnia). During visual stimulation and breath-hold, the VASO signal shows an inverse correlation with the stimulus paradigm, consistent with local vasodilatation. This effect is reversed during hyperventilation. Comparison of the hemodynamic responses of VASO-fMRI, cerebral blood flow (CBF)-based fMRI, and blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI indicates both arteriolar and venular temporal characteristics in VASO. The effect of changes in water exchange rate and partial volume contamination with CSF were calculated to be negligible. At the commonly-used fMRI resolution of 3.75 × 3.75 × 5 mm3, the contrast-tonoise-ratio (CNR) of VASO-fMRI was comparable to that of CBF-based fMRI, but a factor of 3 lower than for BOLD-fMRI. Arguments supporting a better gray matter localization for the VASO-fMRI approach compared to BOLD are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-274
Number of pages12
JournalMagnetic resonance in medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003


  • BOLD
  • Breath-hold
  • Cerebral blood flow
  • Cerebral blood volume
  • Exchange
  • Hemodynamic response
  • Hyperventilation
  • Microvascular
  • VASO
  • Visual stimulation
  • Water relocation
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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