Quantitative phenomenological model of the BOLD contrast mechanism

John D. Dickson, Tom W.J. Ash, Guy B. Williams, Alexander L. Sukstanskii, Richard E. Ansorge, Dmitriy A. Yablonskiy

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43 Scopus citations


Different theoretical models of the BOLD contrast mechanism are used for many applications including BOLD quantification (qBOLD) and vessel size imaging, both in health and disease. Each model simplifies the system under consideration, making approximations about the structure of the blood vessel network and diffusion of water molecules through inhomogeneities in the magnetic field created by deoxyhemo-globin-containing blood vessels. In this study, Monte-Carlo methods are used to simulate the BOLD MR signal generated by diffusing water molecules in the presence of long, cylindrical blood vessels. Using these simulations we introduce a new, phenomenological model that is far more accurate over a range of blood oxygenation levels and blood vessel radii than existing models. This model could be used to extract physiological parameters of the blood vessel network from experimental data in BOLD-based experiments. We use our model to establish ranges of validity for the existing analytical models of Yablonskiy and Haacke, Kiselev and Posse, Sukstanskii and Yablonskiy (extended to the case of arbitrary time in the spin echo sequence) and Bauer et al. (extended to the case of randomly oriented cylinders). Although these models are shown to be accurate in the limits of diffusion under which they were derived, none of them is accurate for the whole physiological range of blood vessels radii and blood oxygenation levels. We also show the extent of systematic errors that are introduced due to the approximations of these models when used for BOLD signal quantification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Magnetic Resonance
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • BOLD modelling
  • Quantitative BOLD


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