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NMR Biomed. 2008 Jun;21(5):464-72.

Mapping of the cerebral vascular response to hypoxia and hypercapnia using quantitative perfusion MRI at 3 T.

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Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, UCL, 12 Queen Square, London, UK.


Changes in breathing change the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide in arterial blood resulting in changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF). This mechanism can be described by the cerebral vascular response (CVR), which has been shown to be altered in different physiological and pathophysiological states. CBF maps of grey matter (GM) were determined with a pulsed arterial spin labelling technique at 3 T in a group of 19 subjects under baseline conditions, hypoxia, and hypercapnia. Experimental conditions allowed a change in either arterial oxygen (hypoxia) or carbon dioxide (hypercapnia) concentration compared with the baseline, leaving the other variable constant, in order to separate the effects of these two variables. From these results, maps were calculated showing the regional distribution of the CVR to hypoxia and hypercapnia in GM. Maps of CVR to hypoxia showed very high intra-subject variations, with some GM regions exhibiting a positive response and others a negative response. Per 10% decrease in arterial oxygen saturation, there was a statistically significant 7.0 +/- 2.9% (mean +/- SEM) increase in GM-CBF for the group. However, 70% of subjects showed an overall positive CVR (positive responders), and the remaining 30% an overall negative CVR (negative responders). Maps of CVR to hypercapnia showed less intra-subject variation. Per 1 mm Hg increase in partial pressure of end-tidal carbon dioxide, there was a statistically significant 5.8 +/- 0.9% increase in GM-CBF, all subjects showing an overall positive CVR. As the brain is particularly vulnerable to hypoxia, a condition associated with cardiorespiratory diseases, CVR maps may help in the clinic to identify the areas most prone to damage because of a reduced CVR.

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