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International Journal of Biomedical Imaging
Volume 2012, Article ID 818456, 13 pages
Review Article

Arterial Spin Labeling (ASL) fMRI: Advantages, Theoretical Constrains and Experimental Challenges in Neurosciences

Department of Radiology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA

Received 18 April 2011; Revised 27 September 2011; Accepted 11 October 2011

Academic Editor: Alayar Kangarlu

Copyright © 2012 Ajna Borogovac and Iris Asllani. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cerebral blood flow (CBF) is a well-established correlate of brain function and therefore an essential parameter for studying the brain at both normal and diseased states. Arterial spin labeling (ASL) is a noninvasive fMRI technique that uses arterial water as an endogenous tracer to measure CBF. ASL provides reliable absolute quantification of CBF with higher spatial and temporal resolution than other techniques. And yet, the routine application of ASL has been somewhat limited. In this review, we start by highlighting theoretical complexities and technical challenges of ASL fMRI for basic and clinical research. While underscoring the main advantages of ASL versus other techniques such as BOLD, we also expound on inherent challenges and confounds in ASL perfusion imaging. In closing, we expound on several exciting developments in the field that we believe will make ASL reach its full potential in neuroscience research.