Measurement of cerebral blood flow (CBF) using the Arterial Spin Labeling (ASL) technique is a desirable fMRI approach due to the higher specificity of CBF to the site of neural activation. However, ASL has inherent limitations, such as a low signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and low coverage/resolution due to the limited readout window following the labeling. Recently, ASL has been implemented at ultra-high field (UHF) strengths in an attempt to mitigate the SNR challenges. Even though ASL intrinsically allows concurrent acquisition of CBF and BOLD contrasts, a compromise in the echo time (TE) for either of the contrasts is inevitable with single-echo acquisitions. Long durations of the Cartesian EPI readout do not allow for multi-echo acquisitions for resolutions ≤2 mm where both contrasts can be acquired at their optimal TE at UHF. With its higher acquisition efficiency, single-shot spiral imaging provides a promising alternative to EPI, and with a dual-echo, out-in trajectory allows both CBF and BOLD contrasts to be acquired at their respective optimal TE. In this work, we implemented a dual-echo spiral out-in ASL sequence with simultaneous multi-slice (SMS) readout for increased coverage, and validated its application to fMRI with a visuomotor paradigm. Conventional Cartesian EPI acquisitions with matched parameters served as a reference. The dual-echo spiral ASL acquisitions resulted in robust CBF and BOLD activations maps. The absolute and relative CBF changes measured with the dual-echo spiral readout were in agreement with previous reports in the literature as well as the reference Cartesian acquisitions. The BOLD response amplitude was higher compared to the Cartesian acquisitions, attributable to a more optimal TE of the second echo. In conclusion, dual-echo spiral out-in SMS acquisition shows promise for concurrent acquisitions of BOLD and non-BOLD contrasts that require a short TE, with no loss in temporal resolution.
Keywords: Arterial spin labeling; Concurrent CBF-bold; Dual-echo spirals; Simultaneous multi-slice; Spiral FMRI; Ultra-high field.
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