Previous fMRI studies of the cerebrovascular response to hypercapnia have shown signal change in cerebral gray matter, but not in white matter. Therefore, the objective of the present study was to compare (15)O PET and T *(2)-weighted MRI during a hypercapnic challenge. The measurements were performed under similar conditions of hypercapnia, which were induced by inhalation of 5 or 7% CO(2). The baseline rCBF values were 65.1 ml hg(-1) min(-1) for temporal gray matter and 28.7 ml hg(-1) min(-1) for white matter. By linear regression, the increases in rCBF during hypercapnia were 23.0 and 7. 2 ml hg(-1) min(-1) kPa(-1) for gray and white matter. The signal changes were 6.9 and 1.9% for the FLASH sequence and were 3.8 and 1. 7% for the EPI sequence at comparable echo times. The regional differences in percentage signal change were significantly reduced when normalized by regional flow values. A deconvolution analysis is introduced to model the relation between fMRI signal and end-expiratory CO(2) level. Temporal parameters, such as mean transit time, were derived from this analysis and suggested a slower response in white matter than in gray matter regions. It was concluded that the differences in the magnitude of the fMRI response can largely be attributed to differences in flow and that there is a considerable difference in the time course of the response between gray and white matter.