Test-retest reliability of cerebral blood flow for assessing brain function at rest and during a vigilance task

Fan Nils Yang, Sihua Xu, Andrea Spaeth, Olga Galli, Ke Zhao, Zhuo Fang, Mathias Basner, David F. Dinges, John A. Detre, Hengyi Rao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Arterial spin labeled (ASL) perfusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is increasingly used to assess regional brain activity and cerebrovascular function in both healthy and clinical populations. ASL perfusion imaging provides a quantitative measure of regional brain activity by determining absolute cerebral blood flow (CBF) values at a resting state or during task performance. However, the comparative reliability of these ASL measures is not well characterized. It is also unclear whether the test-retest reliability of absolute CBF or task-induced CBF change measures would be comparable to the reliability of task performance. In this study, fifteen healthy participants were scanned three times in a strictly controlled in-laboratory study while at rest and during performing a simple and reliable psychomotor vigilance test (PVT). The reliability of absolute CBF and task-induced CBF changes was evaluated using the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) and compared to that of task performance. Absolute CBF showed excellent test-retest reliability across the three scans for both resting and PVT scans. The reliability of regional absolute CBF was comparable to that of behavioral measures of PVT performance, and was slightly higher during PVT scans as compared with resting scans. Task-induced regional CBF changes demonstrated only poor to moderate reliability across three scans. These findings suggest that absolute CBF measures are more reliable than task-induced CBF changes for characterizing regional brain function, especially for longitudinal and clinical studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-166
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • ASL perfusion fMRI
  • Cerebral blood flow (CBF)
  • Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC)
  • Psychomotor vigilance test (PVT)
  • Reliability


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