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J Card Fail. 2009 Apr;15(3):214-23. doi: 10.1016/j.cardfail.2008.10.020. Epub 2008 Dec 23.

Brain injury in autonomic, emotional, and cognitive regulatory areas in patients with heart failure.

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  • 1School of Nursing, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095-1702, USA.



Heart failure (HF) is accompanied by autonomic, emotional, and cognitive deficits, indicating brain alterations. Reduced gray matter volume and isolated white matter infarcts occur in HF, but the extent of damage is unclear. Using magnetic resonance T2 relaxometry, we evaluated the extent of injury across the entire brain in HF.


Proton-density and T2-weighted images were acquired from 13 HF (age 54.6 +/- 8.3 years; 69% male, left ventricular ejection fraction 0.28 +/- 0.07) and 49 controls (50.6 +/- 7.3 years, 59% male). Whole brain maps of T2 relaxation times were compared at each voxel between groups using analysis of covariance (covariates: age and gender). Higher T2 relaxation values, indicating injured brain areas (P < .005), emerged in sites that control autonomic, analgesic, emotional, and cognitive functions (hypothalamus, raphé magnus, cerebellar cortex, deep nuclei and vermis; temporal, parietal, prefrontal, occipital, insular, cingulate, and ventral frontal cortices; corpus callosum; anterior thalamus; caudate nuclei; anterior fornix and hippocampus). No brain areas showed higher T2 values in control vs. HF subjects.


Brain structural injury emerged in areas involved in autonomic, pain, mood, language, and cognitive function in HF patients. Comorbid conditions accompanying HF may result from neural injury associated with the syndrome.

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