A direct comparison between whole-brain PET and BOLD fMRI measurements of single-subject activation response

Neuroimage. 1999 Apr;9(4):430-8. doi: 10.1006/nimg.1998.0420.


We present the results of a direct comparison of single-subject activation using identical tasks for both functional PET and fMRI whole-brain studies. We examined the most commonly employed methods for each modality. For fMRI this is the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) contrast method with echo-planar imaging. In PET single-subject activation studies are based on the development of high sensitivity 3D imaging of regional cerebral blood flow from multiple [15O]water injections. The identical activation paradigm of a visually cued sequential finger opposition was used for PET and fMRI. For both modalities the entire brain volume difference images were smoothed to the same final resolution and the peak t value within the primary sensory/motor (PSM) area was then identified. All contiguous voxels in the PSM above a predetermined threshold of statistical significance were determined. Finally, the difference-weighted centroid location was calculated for the PSM region for each modality. These studies showed a very similar pattern of activation, with the volume of activation greater in fMRI and higher levels of statistical significance. The centroids of activation, however, differed by 9 +/- 3 mm between the modalities, with the fMRI centroid location dorsal to that for PET. These results were stable across all processing options including differing levels of image smoothing and thresholds of statistical significance. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that draining veins contribute a substantial signal for fMRI activation studies and indicate caution for the interpretation of BOLD fMRI images with activation sites near draining veins.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods*


  • Oxygen