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Hum Brain Mapp. 2007 Sep;28(9):846-59.

Reducing vascular variability of fMRI data across aging populations using a breathholding task.

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Henry H. Wheeler Jr. Brain Imaging Center, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, USA.


The magnitude and shape of blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses in functional MRI (fMRI) studies vary across brain regions, subjects, and populations. This variability may be secondary to neural activity or vasculature differences, thus complicating interpretations of BOLD signal changes in fMRI experiments. We compare the BOLD responses to neural activity and a vascular challenge and test a method to dissociate these influences in 26 younger subjects (ages 18-36) and 24 older subjects (ages 51-78). Each subject performed a visuomotor saccade task (a vascular response to neural activity) and a breathholding task (vascular dilation induced by hypercapnia) during separate runs in the same scanning session. For the saccade task, signal magnitude showed a significant decrease with aging in FEF, SEF, and V1, and a delayed time-to-peak with aging in V1. The signal magnitudes from the saccade and hypercapnia tasks showed significant linear regressions within subjects and across individuals and populations. These two tasks had weaker, but sometimes significant linear regressions for time-to-peak and coherence phase measures. The significant magnitude decrease with aging in V1 remained after dividing the saccade task magnitude by the hypercapnia task magnitude, implying that the signal decrease is neural in origin. These findings may lead to a method to identify vascular reactivity-induced differences in the BOLD response across populations and the development of methods to account for the influence of these vasculature differences in a simple, noninvasive manner.

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