Laminar fMRI based on BOLD and CBV contrast at ultrahigh magnetic fields has been applied for studying the dynamics of mesoscopic brain networks. However, the quantitative interpretations of BOLD/CBV fMRI results are confounded by different baseline physiology across cortical layers. Here we introduce a novel 3D zoomed pseudo-continuous arterial spin labeling technique at 7T that offers the unique capability for quantitative measurements of laminar cerebral blood flow (CBF) both at rest and during task activation with high spatial specificity and sensitivity. We found arterial transit time in superficial layers is ~100 msec shorter than in middle/deep layers revealing the dynamics of labeled blood flowing from pial arteries to downstream microvasculature. Resting state CBF peaked in the middle layers which is highly consistent with microvascular density measured from human cortex specimens. Finger tapping induced a robust two-peak laminar profile of CBF increases in the superficial (somatosensory and premotor input) and deep (spinal output) layers of M1, while finger brushing task induced a weaker CBF increase in superficial layers (somatosensory input). We further demonstrated that top-down attention induced a predominant CBF increase in deep layers and a smaller CBF increase on top of the lower baseline CBF in superficial layers of V1 (feedback cortical input), while bottom-up stimulus driven activity peaked in the middle layers (feedforward thalamic input). These quantitative laminar profiles of perfusion activity suggest an important role of M1 superficial layers for the computation of finger movements, and that visual attention may amplify deep layer output to the subcortex.
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