Brain tissue pulsatility mediates cognitive and electrophysiological changes in normal aging: Evidence from ultrasound tissue pulsatility imaging (TPI)

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Abstract

Aging is characterized by a cognitive decline of fluid abilities and is also associated with electrophysiological changes. The vascular hypothesis proposes that brain is sensitive to vascular dysfunction which may accelerate age-related brain modifications and thus explain age-related neurocognitive decline. To test this hypothesis, cognitive performance was measured in 39 healthy participants from 20 to 80 years, using tests assessing inhibition, fluid intelligence, attention and crystallized abilities. Brain functioning associated with attentional abilities was assessed by measuring the P3b ERP component elicited through an auditory oddball paradigm. To assess vascular health, we used an innovative measure of the pulsatility of deep brain tissue, due to variations in cerebral blood flow over the cardiac cycle. Results showed (1) a classical effect of age on fluid neurocognitive measures (inhibition, fluid intelligence, magnitude and latency of the P3b) but not on crystallized measures, (2) that brain pulsatility decreases with advancing age, (3) that brain pulsatility is positively correlated with fluid neurocognitive measures and (4) that brain pulsatility strongly mediated the age-related variance in cognitive performance and the magnitude of the P3b component. The mediating role of the brain pulsatility in age-related effect on neurocognitive measures supports the vascular hypothesis of cognitive aging.

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