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Neurobiol Aging. 2015 Jan;36(1):304-14. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2014.08.018. Epub 2014 Aug 20.

Hearts and minds: linking vascular rigidity and aerobic fitness with cognitive aging.

Author information

1
Department of Physiology/Biomedical Engineering, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada; CRIUGM, Montreal, Canada; Department of Neurology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany. Electronic address: cgauthier@cbs.mpg.de.
2
Sorbonne Universités UPMC Paris 06, CNRS, INSERM, LIB, Paris, France.
3
CRIUGM, Montreal, Canada; Department of Kinesiology, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada.
4
CRIUGM, Montreal, Canada; Psychology Department, UQAM, Montreal, Canada.
5
Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Centre for Functional and Diagnostic Imaging and Research, Copenhagen University Hospital Hvidovre, Hvidovre, Denmark.
6
CRIUGM, Montreal, Canada; Douglas Hospital/MNI, McGill University, Institut de Génie Biomédical, Montreal, Canada.
7
Sorbonne Universités UPMC Paris 06, CNRS, INSERM, LIB, Paris, France; Départment de Génie Électrique, École Polytechnique de Montréal, Montréal, Canada; Montreal Heart Institute, Montreal, Canada.
8
Sorbonne Universités UPMC Paris 06, CNRS, INSERM, LIB, Paris, France; Départment de Génie Électrique, École Polytechnique de Montréal, Montréal, Canada.
9
CRIUGM, Montreal, Canada; Psychology Department, UQAM, Montreal, Canada; PERFORM, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.
10
Department of Physiology/Biomedical Engineering, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada; CRIUGM, Montreal, Canada.

Abstract

Human aging is accompanied by both vascular and cognitive changes. Although arteries throughout the body are known to become stiffer with age, this vessel hardening is believed to start at the level of the aorta and progress to other organs, including the brain. Progression of this vascular impairment may contribute to cognitive changes that arise with a similar time course during aging. Conversely, it has been proposed that regular exercise plays a protective role, attenuating the impact of age on vascular and metabolic physiology. Here, the impact of vascular degradation in the absence of disease was investigated within 2 groups of healthy younger and older adults. Age-related changes in executive function, elasticity of the aortic arch, cardiorespiratory fitness, and cerebrovascular reactivity were quantified, as well as the association between these parameters within the older group. In the cohort studied, older adults exhibited a decline in executive functions, measured as a slower performance in a modified Stroop task (1247.90 ± 204.50 vs. 898.20 ± 211.10 ms on the inhibition and/or switching component, respectively) than younger adults. Older participants also showed higher aortic pulse wave velocity (8.98 ± 3.56 vs. 3.95 ± 0.82 m/s, respectively) and lower VO₂ max (29.04 ± 6.92 vs. 42.32 ± 7.31 mL O2/kg/min, respectively) than younger adults. Within the older group, faster performance of the modified Stroop task was associated with preserved aortic elasticity (lower aortic pulse wave velocity; p = 0.046) and higher cardiorespiratory fitness (VO₂ max; p = 0.036). Furthermore, VO₂ max was found to be negatively associated with blood oxygenation level dependent cerebrovascular reactivity to CO₂ in frontal regions involved in the task (p = 0.038) but positively associated with cerebrovascular reactivity in periventricular watershed regions and within the postcentral gyrus. Overall, the results of this study support the hypothesis that cognitive status in aging is linked to vascular health, and that preservation of vessel elasticity may be one of the key mechanisms by which physical exercise helps to alleviate cognitive aging.

KEYWORDS:

Aortic rigidity; Cardiorespiratory fitness; Cerebrovascular function; Cerebrovascular reactivity; Executive functions; Healthy aging; Stroop; VO(2) max

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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