Arterial spin labeling (ASL) magnetic resonance imaging is increasingly used to quantify task-related brain activation. This study assessed functional ASL (fASL) using pseudo-continuous ASL (pCASL) product sequences from two vendors. By scanning healthy participants twice with each sequence while they performed a motor task, this study assessed functional ASL for 1) its sensitivity to detect task-related cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes, and 2) its reproducibility of resting CBF and absolute CBF changes (delta CBF) in the motor cortex. Whole-brain voxel-wise analyses showed that sensitivity for motor activation was sufficient with each sequence, and comparable between sequences. Reproducibility was assessed with within-subject coefficients of variation (wsCV) and intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC). Reproducibility of resting CBF was reasonably good within (wsCV: 14.1-15.7%; ICC: 0.69-0.77) and between sequences (wsCV: 15.1%; ICC: 0.69). Reproducibility of delta CBF was relatively low, both within (wsCV: 182-297%; ICC: 0.04-0.32) and between sequences (wsCV: 185%; ICC: 0.45), while inter-session variation was low. This may be due to delta CBF's small mean effect (0.77-1.32 mL/100g gray matter/min). In conclusion, fASL seems sufficiently sensitive to detect task-related changes on a group level, with acceptable inter-sequence differences. Resting CBF may provide a consistent baseline to compare task-related activation to, but absolute regional CBF changes are more variable, and should be interpreted cautiously when acquired with two pCASL product sequences.

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Journal PLoS ONE
Steketee, R.M.E, Mutsaerts, H.J.M.M, Bron, E.E, van Osch, M.J.P, Majoie, C.B, van der Lugt, A, … Smits, M. (2015). Quantitative functional Arterial Spin Labeling (fASL) MRI - Sensitivity and reproducibility of regional CBF changes using pseudo-continuous ASL product sequences. PLoS ONE, 10(7). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0132929