Pulmonary x-ray computed tomography (CT) may be used to characterize emphysema and airways disease in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). One analysis approach – parametric response mapping (PMR) utilizes registered inspiratory and expiratory CT image volumes and CT-density-histogram thresholds, but there is no consensus regarding the threshold values used, or their clinical meaning. Principal-component-analysis (PCA) of the CT density histogram can be exploited to quantify emphysema using data-driven CT-density-histogram thresholds. Thus, the objective of this proof-of-concept demonstration was to develop a PRM approach using PCA-derived thresholds in COPD patients and ex-smokers without airflow limitation. Methods: Fifteen COPD ex-smokers and 5 normal ex-smokers were evaluated. Thoracic CT images were also acquired at full inspiration and full expiration and these images were non-rigidly co-registered. PCA was performed for the CT density histograms, from which the components with the highest eigenvalues greater than one were summed. Since the values of the principal component curve correlate directly with the variability in the sample, the maximum and minimum points on the curve were used as threshold values for the PCA-adjusted PRM technique. Results: A significant correlation was determined between conventional and PCA-adjusted PRM with 3He MRI apparent diffusion coefficient (p<0.001), with CT RA950 (p<0.0001), as well as with 3He MRI ventilation defect percent, a measurement of both small airways disease (p=0.049 and p=0.06, respectively) and emphysema (p=0.02). Conclusions: PRM generated using PCA thresholds of the CT density histogram showed significant correlations with CT and 3He MRI measurements of emphysema, but not airways disease.