Altered cerebrovascular reactivity due to respiratory rate and breath holding: a BOLD-fMRI study on healthy adults

Kai Chen, Hang Yang, Heming Zhang, Chun Meng, Benjamin Becker, Bharat Biswal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) is of great significance for the treatment and prevention of cerebrovascular diseases. CVR can be mapped using the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signal of fMRI. Breath holding (BH) is a reliable method to produce the desired increase in arterial CO2, while its application in clinical research is limited due to subject’s compliance and variability. BH task with variable respiratory rates could allow more flexibility in clinical populations. In this study, 50 healthy volunteers were scanned for end-inspiration BH tasks with three different respiration rates. For the three respiratory rates BH tasks, the CVR was estimated based on the BOLD signal and general linear model (GLM) separately. Specifically, the extra time delay was considered for the hemodynamic response function, and the optimal delay was estimated for each voxel. To measure CVR in grey matter, BOLD signals of end-inspiration BH were used as regressors in general linear models to quantify their impact on CVR. This was performed for regions and voxels. Systematic differences were observed between the three end-inspiratory breathing rates. The greatest increase in activation intensity was found in fast breathing followed by self-paced and slow breathing. We conclude that the BH task of variable respiratory rates allows for CVR measurement, making breath-holding challenges more flexible and appropriate for routine practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1229-1239
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • General Neuroscience
  • Histology


  • Breath-holding experiments
  • CVR
  • Respiratory rates
  • fMRI-BOLD signal


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