Dietary supplementation of creatine monohydrate reduces the human fMRI BOLD signal

Neurosci Lett. 2010 Aug 2;479(3):201-5. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2010.05.054. Epub 2010 May 24.


Creatine monohydrate is an organic acid that plays a key role in ATP re-synthesis. Creatine levels in the human brain vary considerably and dietary supplementation has been found to enhance cognitive performance in healthy individuals. To explore the possibility that the fMRI Blood Oxygen Level Dependent (BOLD) response is influenced by creatine levels, BOLD responses to visual stimuli were measured in visual cortex before and after a week of creatine administration in healthy human volunteers. The magnitude of the BOLD response decreased by 16% following creatine supplementation of a similar dose to that previously shown to increase cerebral levels of phosphocreatine. We also confirmed that cognitive performance (memory span) is increased. These changes were not found in a placebo group. Possible mechanisms of BOLD change are considered. The results offer potential for insight into the coupling between neural activity and the BOLD response and the more immediate possibility of accounting for an important source of variability during fMRI analysis in clinical studies and other investigations where between-subjects variance is an issue.

MeSH terms

  • Creatine / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / blood supply
  • Visual Cortex / drug effects*


  • Creatine
  • Oxygen