Cerebral blood flow regulation and cognitive function in women with posttraumatic stress disorder

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Nov 1;125(5):1627-1635. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00502.2018. Epub 2018 Aug 30.

Abstract

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with structural and functional alterations in a number of interacting brain regions, but the physiological mechanism for the high risk of cerebrovascular disease or impairment in brain function remains unknown. Women are more likely to develop PTSD after a trauma than men. We hypothesized that cerebral blood flow (CBF) regulation is impaired in women with PTSD, and it is associated with impairment in cognitive function. To test our hypothesis, we examined dynamic cerebral autoregulation (CA) and cognitive function by using a transfer function analysis between arterial pressure and middle cerebral artery blood velocity and the Stroop Color and Word test (SCWT), respectively. We did not observe any different responses in these hemodynamic variables between women with PTSD ( n = 15) and healthy counterparts (all women; n = 8). Cognitive function was impaired in women with PTSD; specifically, reaction time for the neutral task of SCWT was longer in women with PTSD compared with healthy counterparts ( P = 0.011), but this cognitive dysfunction was not affected by orthostatic stress. On the other hand, transfer function phase, gain, and coherence were not different between groups in either the supine or head-up tilt (60°) position, or even during the cognitive challenge, indicating that dynamic CA was well maintained in women with PTSD. In addition, there was no relationship between cognitive function and dynamic CA. These findings suggest that PTSD-related cognitive dysfunction may not be due to compromised CBF regulation. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Cognitive function was impaired; however, dynamic cerebral autoregulation (CA) as an index of cerebral blood flow regulation was not impaired during supine and 60° head-up tilt in women with PTSD compared with healthy females. In addition, there was no relationship between cognitive function and dynamic CA. These findings suggest that the mechanism of PTSD-related cognitive dysfunction may not be due to CBF regulation.

Keywords: Stroop Color and Word test; dynamic cerebral autoregulation; head-up tilt; transcranial Doppler; transfer function analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arterial Pressure
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / physiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*