Age Related Changes in Cerebrovascular Reactivity and Its Relationship to Global Brain Structure

Gordon D. Waiter, George G. Cameron, Trevor S. Ahearn, Christian Schwarzbauer, Alison D. Murray

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Introduction: There is growing evidence to suggest that vascular and CSF haemodynamic effects are related to structural changes in the ageing brain. We investigated these effects in a sample of healthy participants by measuring changes in cerebrovascular reactivity induced by hypercapnia and comparing these to global and ROI based cerebral volume measures.
Methods: Forty five participants aged 21 to 58 years (23 female) were recruited. Cerebrovascular reactivity was determined from hypercapnia induced BOLD signal change during two 3-minute intervals of breathing 6% CO2, interleaved with three 2-minute intervals of breathing room air. Parametric maps of reactivity were calculated as the ratio of % BOLD signal change to end-tidal CO2 (mmHg). High resolution 3D T1-weighted images were segmented and lateral ventricle volume and white matter hypointensity volume determined.
Results: Significant negative correlations between both grey matter (p = .042) and white matter (p = .021) reactivity and age were found and significant negative correlations between grey matter (p = .013) and white matter (p = .004) reactivity and lateral ventricle volume were also found while correcting for age and total intracranial volume. A significant negative correlation between white matter reactivity and white matter hypointensity volume was found (p = .049) after correcting for age.
Conclusion: These results support the hypothesis that cerebrovascular haemodynamics influence structural brain changes that occur during normal ageing that are independent of the age of the individual.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-820
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Medicine & Medical Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

This study was funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) and the Aberdeen Biomedical Imaging Centre, University of Aberdeen. GDW, ADM and CS are part of the SINASPE collaboration (Scottish Imaging Network - A Platform for Scientific Excellence The authors thank Gordon Buchan, Baljit Jagpal, Nichola Crouch, Beverly Maclennan and Katrina Klaasen for their help with running the experiment and Dawn Younie and Teresa Morris for their help with recruitment and scheduling. We also thank the residents of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and
further afield, for their generous participation.


  • MRI
  • hypercapnia
  • dual echo
  • cerebrovascular reactivity
  • volume
  • white matter hypointensity


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