Reliable quantification of BOLD fMRI cerebrovascular reactivity despite poor breath-hold performance

Molly G. Bright*, Kevin Murphy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


Cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) can be mapped using BOLD fMRI to provide a clinical insight into vascular health that can be used to diagnose cerebrovascular disease. Breath-holds are a readily accessible method for producing the required arterial CO2 increases but their implementation into clinical studies is limited by concerns that patients will demonstrate highly variable performance of breath-hold challenges. This study assesses the repeatability of CVR measurements despite poor task performance, to determine if and how robust results could be achieved with breath-holds in patients. Twelve healthy volunteers were scanned at 3T. Six functional scans were acquired, each consisting of 6 breath-hold challenges (10, 15, or 20s duration) interleaved with periods of paced breathing. These scans simulated the varying breath-hold consistency and ability levels that may occur in patient data. Uniform ramps, time-scaled ramps, and end-tidal CO2 data were used as regressors in a general linear model in order to measure CVR at the grey matter, regional, and voxelwise level. The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) quantified the repeatability of the CVR measurement for each breath-hold regressor type and scale of interest across the variable task performances. The ramp regressors did not fully account for variability in breath-hold performance and did not achieve acceptable repeatability (ICC<0.4) in several regions analysed. In contrast, the end-tidal CO2 regressors resulted in "excellent" repeatability (ICC=0.82) in the average grey matter data, and resulted in acceptable repeatability in all smaller regions tested (ICC>0.4). Further analysis of intra-subject CVR variability across the brain (ICCspatial and voxelwise correlation) supported the use of end-tidal CO2 data to extract robust whole-brain CVR maps, despite variability in breath-hold performance. We conclude that the incorporation of end-tidal CO2 monitoring into scanning enables robust, repeatable measurement of CVR that makes breath-hold challenges suitable for routine clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-568
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • BOLD
  • Breath-hold
  • Cerebrovascular reactivity
  • Patients
  • Repeatability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Reliable quantification of BOLD fMRI cerebrovascular reactivity despite poor breath-hold performance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this