Noise concerns and post-processing procedures in cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebral blood volume (CBV) functional magnetic resonance imaging

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Functional neuroimaging with blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) contrast has emerged as the most popular method for evaluating qualitative changes in brain function in humans. At typical human field strengths (1.5–3.0 T), BOLD contrast provides a measure of changes in transverse water relaxation rates in and around capillary and venous blood, and as such provides only a surrogate marker of brain function that depends on dynamic changes in hemodynamics (e.g., cerebral blood flow and volume) and metabolism (e.g., oxygen extraction fraction and the cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen consumption). Alternative functional neuroimaging methods that are specifically sensitive to these constituents of the BOLD signal are being developed and applied in a growing number of clinical and neuroscience applications of quantitative cerebral physiology. These methods require additional considerations for interpreting and quantifying their contrast responsibly. Here, an overview of two popular methods, arterial spin labeling and vascular space occupancy, is presented specifically in the context of functional neuroimaging. Appropriate post-processing and experimental acquisition strategies are summarized with the motivation of reducing sensitivity to noise and unintended signal sources and improving quantitative accuracy of cerebral hemodynamics.

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