Arterial stiffness and brain integrity: A review of MRI findings

Ageing Res Rev. 2019 Aug:53:100907. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2019.05.001. Epub 2019 May 4.


Background: Given the increasing incidence of vascular diseases and dementia, a better understanding of the cerebrovascular changes induced by arterial stiffness is important for early identification of white and gray matter abnormalities that might antedate the appearance of clinical cognitive symptoms. Here, we review the evidence from neuroimaging demonstrating the impact of arterial stiffness on the aging brain.

Method: This review presents findings from recent studies examining the association between arterial stiffness, cognitive function, cerebral hypoperfusion, and markers of neuronal fiber integrity using a variety of MRI techniques.

Results: Overall, changes associated with arterial stiffness indicates that the corpus callosum, the internal capsule and the corona radiata may be the most vulnerable regions to microvascular damage. In addition, the microstructural integrity of these regions appears to be associated with cognitive performance. Changes in gray matter structure have also been found to be associated with arterial stiffness and are present as early as the 5th decade. Moreover, low cerebral perfusion has been associated with arterial stiffness as well as lower cognitive performance in age-sensitive tasks such as executive function.

Conclusion: Considering the established relationship between arterial stiffness, brain and cognition, this review highlights the need for future studies of brain structure and function in aging to implement measurements of arterial stiffness in parallel with quantitative imaging.

Keywords: Aging; Arterial spin labell; Arterial stiffness; Diffusion; Magnetic resonance imaging; Pulse wave velocity; White matter; ing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cognition*
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging
  • Vascular Stiffness*
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / pathology