Relationship Between Cerebrovascular Reactivity and Cognition Among People With Risk of Cognitive Decline

Donghoon Kim, Timothy M. Hughes, Megan E. Lipford, Suzanne Craft, Laura D. Baker, Samuel N. Lockhart, Christopher T. Whitlow, Stephanie E. Okonmah-Obazee, Christina E. Hugenschmidt, Matthew Bobinski, Youngkyoo Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vascular risk factors (e.g., obesity and hypertension) are associated with cerebral small vessel disease, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology, and dementia. Reduced perfusion may reflect the impaired ability of blood vessels to regulate blood flow in reaction to varying circumstances such as hypercapnia (increased end-tidal partial pressures of CO2). It has been shown that cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) measured with blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) MRI is correlated with cognitive performance and alterations of CVR may be an indicator of vascular disfunction leading to cognitive decline. However, the underlying mechanism of CVR alterations in BOLD signal may not be straight-forward because BOLD signal is affected by multiple physiological parameters, such as cerebral blood flow (CBF), cerebral blood volume, and oxygen metabolism. Arterial spin labeling (ASL) MRI quantitatively measures blood flow in the brain providing images of local CBF. Therefore, in this study, we measured CBF and its changes using a dynamic ASL technique during a hypercapnia challenge and tested if CBF or CVR was related to cognitive performance using the Mini-mental state examination (MMSE) score. Seventy-eight participants underwent cognitive testing and MRI including ASL during a hypercapnia challenge with a RespirAct computer-controlled gas blender, targeting 10 mmHg higher end-tidal CO2 level than the baseline while end-tidal O2 level was maintained. Pseudo-continuous ASL (PCASL) was collected during a 2-min baseline and a 2-min hypercapnic period. CVR was obtained by calculating a percent change of CBF per the end-tidal CO2 elevation in mmHg between the baseline and the hypercapnic challenge. Multivariate regression analyses demonstrated that baseline resting CBF has no significant relationship with MMSE, while lower CVR in the whole brain gray matter (β = 0.689, p = 0.005) and white matter (β = 0.578, p = 0.016) are related to lower MMSE score. In addition, region of interest (ROI) based analysis showed positive relationships between MMSE score and CVR in 26 out of 122 gray matter ROIs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number645342
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
StatePublished - May 31 2021


  • arterial spin labeling
  • cerebral blood flow
  • cerebrovascular reactivity
  • cognition
  • hypercapnia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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