Oxygen extraction efficiency and white matter lesion burden in older adults exhibiting radiological evidence of capillary shunting

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2022 Oct;42(10):1933-1943. doi: 10.1177/0271678X221105986. Epub 2022 Jun 8.


White matter lesions (WML) have been linked to cognitive decline in aging as well as in Alzheimer's disease. While hypoperfusion is frequently considered a cause of WMLs due to the resulting reduction in oxygen availability to brain tissue, such reductions could also be caused by impaired oxygen exchange. Here, we tested the hypothesis that venous hyperintense signal (VHS) in arterial spin labeling (ASL) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may represent a marker of impaired oxygen extraction in aging older adults. In participants aged 60-80 years (n = 30), we measured cerebral blood flow and VHS with arterial spin labeling, maximum oxygen extraction fraction (OEFmax) with dynamic susceptibility contrast, and WML volume with T1-weighted MRI. We found a significant interaction between OEFmax and VHS presence on WML volume (p = 0.02), where lower OEFmax was associated with higher WML volume in participants with VHS, and higher OEFmax was associated with higher WML volume in participants without VHS. These results indicate that VHS in perfusion-weighted ASL data may represent a distinct cerebrovascular aging pattern involving oxygen extraction inefficiency as well as hypoperfusion.

Keywords: Aging; capillary shunting; cerebral blood flow; oxygen extraction fraction; white matter lesions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Spin Labels
  • White Matter* / blood supply


  • Spin Labels
  • Oxygen