Vascular Origins of BOLD and CBV fMRI Signals: Statistical Mapping and Histological Sections Compared

Aneurin J Kennerley*, John E Mayhew, Peter Redgrave, Jason Berwick
Centre for Signal Processing in Neuroimaging and Systems Neuroscience (SPiNSN), Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK

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© Kennerley et al; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the SPiNSN, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK; Tel: +44-114-222-6554; Fax: +44-114-276-6515; E-mail:


Comparison of 3T blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) and cerebral blood volume (CBV) activation maps to histological sections enables the spatial discrimination of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signal changes into different vascular compartments. We use a standard gradient echo–echo planar imaging technique to measure BOLD signal changes in the somatosensory cortex in response to whisker stimulation. Corresponding changes in CBV were estimated following the infusion of a super-paramagnetic contrast agent. We imaged in a tangential imaging plane that covered the cortical surface. Images were associated with post mortem histological sections showing both the surface vasculature and cytochrome oxidase stained whisker barrel cortex. We found a significant BOLD signal change in the large draining veins which occurred in the absence of a corresponding CBV change. Results suggest that in the venous drainage system, ~3mm distant from the area of activity, there is a robust change in blood oxygen saturation with little or no volume change. CBV changes are localised over the somatosensory barrel cortex and overlying arterial supply, supporting the theory that CBV changes are greater in the arterial than in the venous vasculature. This work investigating BOLD signal and underlying hemodynamics provides more information on the vascular origins of these important neuroimaging signals.

Keywords: fMRI, BOLD, CBV, compartments.