Although both impaired cardiac function and reduced cerebral blood flow are associated with ageing, current knowledge of the influence of cardiac function on resting cerebral blood flow (CBF) is limited. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential effects of cardiac function on CBF. CBF and cardiac output were measured in 31 healthy subjects 50-75 years old using magnetic resonance imaging techniques. Mean values of CBF, cardiac output and cardiac index were 43.6 ml per 100 g min(-1), 5.5 l min(-1) and 2.7 l min(-1) m(-2), respectively, in males, and 53.4 ml per 100 g min(-1), 4.3 l min(-1) and 2.4 l min(-1) m(-2), respectively, in females. No effects of cardiac output or cardiac index on CBF or structural signs of brain ageing were observed. However, fractional brain flow defined as the ratio of total brain flow to cardiac output was inversely correlated with cardiac index (r(2) = 0.22, P = 0.008) and furthermore lower in males than in females (8.6% versus 12.5%, P = 0.003). Fractional brain flow was also inversely correlated with cerebral white matter lesion grade, although this effect was not significant when adjusted for age. Frequency analysis of heart rate variability showed a gender-related inverse association of increased low-to-high-frequency power ratio with CBF and fractional brain flow. The findings do not support a direct effect of cardiac function on CBF, but demonstrates gender-related differences in cardiac output distribution. We propose fractional brain flow as a novel index that may be a useful marker of adequate brain perfusion in the context of ageing as well as cardiovascular disease.
Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging, 2014, Vol 34, Issue 6, p. 471-477