A carefully controlled study allowed us to compare the sensitivity of ASL (arterial spin labeling) and BOLD (blood oxygen level dependent) fMRI for detecting the effects of the adenosine A2a antagonist tozadenant in Parkinson disease. The study compared the effect of drug directly or the interaction of the drug with a cognitive task. Only ASL detected the direct effect of tozadenant. BOLD was more sensitive to the cognitive task, which (unlike most drugs) allows on-off comparisons over short periods of time. Neither ASL nor BOLD could detect a cognitive-pharmacological interaction. These results are consistent with the known relative advantages of each fMRI method, and suggest that for drug development, directly imaging pharmacodynamic effects with ASL may have advantages over cognitive-pharmacological interaction BOLD, which has hitherto been the more common approach to pharmacological fMRI.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere687
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • Arterial spin labeling (ASL)
  • BOLD
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Parkinson disease
  • Pulsed arterial spin labeling
  • Statistical parametric mapping
  • Tozadenant
  • phMRI (pharmacological fMRI)


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