The dynamics of cerebrovascular reactivity shown with transfer function analysis

Neuroimage. 2015 Jul 1:114:207-16. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.04.029. Epub 2015 Apr 16.


Cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) is often defined as the increase in cerebral blood flow (CBF) produced by an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) and may be used clinically to assess the health of the cerebrovasculature. When CBF is estimated using blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) magnetic resonance imaging, CVR values for each voxel can be displayed using a color scale mapped onto the corresponding anatomical scan. While these CVR maps therefore show the distribution of cerebrovascular reactivity, they only provide an estimate of the magnitude of the cerebrovascular response, and do not indicate the time course of the response; whether rapid or slow. Here we describe transfer function analysis (TFA) of the BOLD response to CO2 that provides not only the magnitude of the response (gain) but also the phase and coherence. The phase can be interpreted as indicating the speed of response and so can distinguish areas where the response is slowed. The coherence measures the fidelity with which the response follows the stimulus. The examples of gain, phase and coherence maps obtained from TFA of previously recorded test data from patients and healthy individuals demonstrate that these maps may enhance assessment of cerebrovascular pathophysiology by providing insight into the dynamics of cerebral blood flow control and distribution.

Keywords: Carbon dioxide; Cerebral blood flow; Cerebrovascular reactivity; Functional magnetic resonance imaging; Humans; Transfer function analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Carbon Dioxide / administration & dosage
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Neurological


  • Carbon Dioxide