Carotid arterial stiffness and cerebral blood flow variability in individuals with mild cognitive impairment




Bhuiyan, Nasrul
Davis, K. Austin
Vintimilla, Raul
Borzage, Matthew
Pahlevan, Niema
King, Kevin
Johnson, Leigh
O'Bryant, Sid
Rickards, Caroline


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Purpose: It is unclear whether cerebral blood flow variability is a sign of impaired vascular function or an adaptation to chronic cerebral hypoperfusion in individuals with cognitive dysfunction. Elevated arterial stiffness increases transmission of pulsatile pressure to the brain, but the relationship between arterial stiffness, the magnitude of cerebral blood flow variability, and cognitive dysfunction is unknown. In this pilot study, we hypothesized that carotid artery stiffness would be higher in individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) compared with individuals with normal cognition (NC), resulting in higher cerebral blood flow variability.

Methods: In individuals with MCI (N=5) or NC (N=7), R-wave to common carotid artery (CCA) pulse wave velocity (PWV) was assessed as an index of arterial stiffness (via tonometry). CCA velocity (CCAv) and middle cerebral artery velocity (MCAv) were measured via transcranial Doppler ultrasound, with concurrent measurements of mean arterial pressure (MAP) via finger photoplethysmography. The amplitude of MAP, CCAv, and MCAv oscillations in the low frequency range (LF; 0.07-0.15 Hz) were assessed via fast Fourier transformation, and normalized to total power (0.04-0.4 Hz) for each participant to account for high inter-individual variability. Relationships between R-wave-carotid PWV and LF variability in CCAv and MCAv were assessed via correlational analyses.

Results: There were no between-group differences for R-wave-carotid PWV (MCI: 0.91±0.16 m/s vs. NC: 0.87±0.07 m/s; P=0.70), mean CCAv (MCI: 31.8±8.8 cm/s vs. NC: 29.7±2.0 cm/s; P=0.54), mean MCAv (MCI: 50.9±6.5 cm/s vs. NC: 47.9±12.7 cm/s; P=0.63), or MAP (MCI: 102.1±10.2 mmHg vs. 104.7±13.8 mmHg; P=0.73). While there was also no difference between groups for nLF power of CCAv (MCI: 0.28±0.03 au vs. NC: 0.33±0.10 au; P=0.41), nLF power for MCAv was lower in the MCI group (MCI: 0.26±0.07 au vs. 0.43±0.12; P=0.02). Overall, there was a strong positive correlation between R-wave-carotid PWV and CCAv nLF power (R=0.81, P=0.005), but a weaker relationship for MCAv nLF power (R=0.56, P=0.09). While sub-group correlational analyses are limited based on the small sample sizes, relationships between R-wave-carotid PWV and CCAv nLF power were high for both MCI (R=0.98, P=0.02) and NC (R=0.79, P=0.06) groups, but were lower for MCAv nLF power (MCI: R=-0.12, P=0.88; NC: R=0.69, P=0.13).

Conclusion: Contrary to our hypothesis, there were no differences in R-wave-carotid PWV between groups, and blood flow variability was either similar between groups (for CCAv), or lower in the MCI group (for MCAv). Overall, there was a strong positive relationship between R-wave-carotid PWV and blood flow variability in the CCA, which was also observed in sub-analysis of the MCI and NC groups. Future investigations with a larger sample size are needed to definitively determine the role of arterial stiffness on cerebral blood flow variability with cognitive dysfunction.