The heart-brain connection: mechanistic insights and models

Neth Heart J. 2013 Feb;21(2):55-7. doi: 10.1007/s12471-012-0348-9.


While both cardiac dysfunction and progressive loss of cognitive function are prominent features of an ageing population, surprisingly few studies have addressed the link between the function of the heart and brain. Recent literature indicates that autoregulation of cerebral flow is not able to protect the brain from hypoperfusion when cardiac output is reduced or atherosclerosis is prominent. This suggests a close link between cardiac function and large vessel atherosclerosis on the one hand and brain perfusion and cognitive functioning on the other. Mechanistically, the presence of vascular pathology leads to chronic cerebral hypoperfusion, blood brain barrier breakdown and inflammation that most likely precede neuronal death and neurodegeneration. Animal models to study the effects of chronic cerebral hypoperfusion are available, but they have not yet been combined with cardiovascular models.