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A mechanistic computational framework to investigate the hemodynamic fingerprint of the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal

Publication year 2023
Published in NMR in Biomedicine
Authors Mario Gilberto Báez-Yáñez, Jeroen C. W. Siero, Natalia Petridou

Blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is one of the most used imaging techniques to map brain activity or to obtain clinical information about human cortical vasculature, in both healthy and disease conditions. Nevertheless, BOLD fMRI is an indirect measurement of brain functioning triggered by neurovascular coupling. The origin of the BOLD signal is quite complex, and the signal formation thus depends, among other factors, on the topology of the cortical vasculature and the associated hemodynamic changes. To understand the hemodynamic evolution of the BOLD signal response in humans, it is beneficial to have a computational framework available that virtually resembles the human cortical vasculature, and simulates hemodynamic changes and corresponding MRI signal changes via interactions of intrinsic biophysical and magnetic properties of the tissues. To this end, we have developed a mechanistic computational framework that simulates the hemodynamic fingerprint of the BOLD signal based on a statistically defined, three-dimensional, vascular model that approaches the human cortical vascular architecture. The microvasculature is approximated through a Voronoi tessellation method and the macrovasculature is adapted from two-photon microscopy mice data. Using this computational framework, we simulated hemodynamic changes-cerebral blood flow, cerebral blood volume, and blood oxygen saturation-induced by virtual arterial dilation. Then we computed local magnetic field disturbances generated by the vascular topology and the corresponding blood oxygen saturation changes. This mechanistic computational framework also considers the intrinsic biophysical and magnetic properties of nearby tissue, such as water diffusion and relaxation properties, resulting in a dynamic BOLD signal response. The proposed mechanistic computational framework provides an integrated biophysical model that can offer better insights regarding the spatial and temporal properties of the BOLD signal changes.

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