We assessed cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) within gray matter (GM), normal appearing white matter (NAWM) and white matter (WM) lesions in a group of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Furthermore, correlations between CBF, CVR and age were investigated. 31 MS patients and 25 healthy controls (HC) were examined on a 1.5 T MRI scanner, using pseudo-continuous arterial spin labeling MRI. MS vs HC CBF and CVR differences were assessed in GM regions of interest (i.e. resting state networks and vascular territories), and within WM. Correlations between CBF/CVR and age were then computed for MS and HC groups. Whereas no significant CBF and CVR differences were observed between MS and HC in any of the considered brain areas, significantly lower CBF was found in WM lesions with respect to NAWM (p < 0.001) in MS patients. Furthermore, CVR was significantly correlated with age in HC, but not in MS patients. The relatively low-grade of inflammation of our MS cohort may be associated with the observed lack of significant CVR differences between MS patients and HC. The loss of correlation between CVR and age in the MS group suggests that CVR may be influenced by MS-related factors.
Keywords: Age; Arterial spin labeling; Cerebral blood flow; Cerebrovascular reactivity; Multiple sclerosis.