Models and methods for derivation of in vivo neuroreceptor parameters with PET and SPECT reversible radiotracers

Nucl Med Biol. 2001 Jul;28(5):595-608. doi: 10.1016/s0969-8051(01)00214-1.


The science of quantitative analysis of PET and SPECT neuroreceptor imaging studies has grown considerably over the past decade. A number of methods have been proposed in which receptor parameter estimation results from fitting data to a model of the underlying kinetics of ligand uptake in the brain. These approaches have come to be collectively known as model-based methods and several have received widespread use. Here, we briefly review the most frequently used methods and examine their strengths and weaknesses. Kinetic modeling is the most direct implementation of the compartment models, but with some tracers accurate input function measurement and good compartment configuration identification can be difficult to obtain. Other methods were designed to overcome some particular vulnerability to error of classical kinetic modeling, but introduced new vulnerabilities in the process. Reference region methods obviate the need for arterial plasma measurement, but are not as robust to violations of the underlying modeling assumptions as methods using the arterial input function. Graphical methods give estimates of V(T) without the requirement of compartment model specification, but provide a biased estimator in the presence of statistical noise. True equilibrium methods are quite robust, but their use is limited to experiments with tracers that are suitable for constant infusion. In conclusion, there is no universally "best" method that is applicable to all neuroreceptor imaging studies, and carefully evaluation of model-based methods is required for each radiotracer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / analysis*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Receptors, Cell Surface