Pseudocontinuous arterial spin labeling reveals dissociable effects of morphine and alcohol on regional cerebral blood flow

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2011 May;31(5):1321-33. doi: 10.1038/jcbfm.2010.234. Epub 2011 Jan 19.


We have examined sensitivity and specificity of pseudocontinuous arterial spin labeling (PCASL) to detect global and regional changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF) in response to two different psychoactive drugs. We tested alcohol and morphine in a placebo-controlled, double-blind randomized study in 12 healthy young men. Drugs were administered intravenously. Validated pharmacokinetic protocols achieved minimal intersubject and intrasubject variance in plasma drug concentration. Permutation-based statistical testing of a mixed effect repeated measures model revealed a widespread increase in absolute CBF because of both morphine and alcohol. Conjunction analysis revealed overlapping effects of morphine and alcohol on absolute CBF in the left anterior cingulate, right hippocampus, right insula, and left primary sensorimotor areas. Effects of morphine and alcohol on relative CBF (obtained from z-normalization of absolute CBF maps) were significantly different in the left putamen, left frontoparietal network, cerebellum, and the brainstem. Corroborating previous PET results, our findings suggest that PCASL is a promising tool for central nervous system drug research.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Morphine / pharmacology*
  • Narcotics / pharmacology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spin Labels
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Narcotics
  • Spin Labels
  • Ethanol
  • Morphine