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Neuroimage. 2004 Jan;21(1):144-53.

Discrepancies between BOLD and flow dynamics in primary and supplementary motor areas: application of the balloon model to the interpretation of BOLD transients.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, University of California at San Diego, 92039-0677, La Jolla, CA, USA.


The blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal measured in the brain with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during an activation experiment often exhibits pronounced transients at the beginning and end of the stimulus. Such transients could be a reflection of transients in the underlying neural activity, or they could result from transients in cerebral blood flow (CBF), cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen (CMRO2), or cerebral blood volume (CBV). These transients were investigated using an arterial spin labeling (ASL) method that allows simultaneous measurements of BOLD and CBF responses. Responses to a finger-tapping task (40-s stimulus, 80-s rest) were measured in primary motor area (M1) and supplementary motor area (SMA) in five healthy volunteers. In SMA, the average BOLD response was pronounced near the beginning and end of the stimulus, while in M1, the BOLD response was nearly flat. However, CBF responses in the two regions were rather similar, and did not exhibit the same transient features as the BOLD response in SMA. Because this suggests a hemodynamic rather than a neural origin for the transients of the BOLD response in SMA, we used a generalization of the balloon model to test the degree of hemodynamic transients required to produce the measured curves. Both data sets could be approximated with modest differences in the shapes of the CMRO2 and CBV responses. This study illustrates the utility and the limitations of using theoretical models combined with ASL techniques to understand the dynamics of the BOLD response.

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