Magnetic resonance imaging for assessment of cerebrovascular reactivity and its relationship to cognition: A systematic review

Sarah J. Catchlove, Andrew Pipingas, Matthew E. Hughes, Helen Macpherson

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) refers to the responsiveness of cerebral vasculature to vasoactive stimuli. CVR is an indicator of brain health and can be assessed using vasodilatory techniques and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using such approaches, some researchers have explored the relationship between CVR and cognition; here we systematically review this work. Results: We extracted information pertaining to: (1) study location and design, participant characteristics, sample sizes, (2) design of vascular challenge, end-tidal CO 2 (etCO 2 ) concentrations (if applicable), (3) MRI protocol, (4) cognitive assessment, (5) CVR values, and outcomes of statistical analyses with cognitive tests. Five studies assessed participants with cognitive impairment compared to controls, one studied patients with multiple sclerosis with or without cognitive impairment compared to controls, one examined patients with moyamoya disease with or without cognitive impairment, two investigated patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), and one was a cross-sectional study with younger and older healthy adults. Cognition was typically probed using the MMSE and tests of executive function, while a number of vasodilatory techniques were employed. Conclusion: CVR was associated with cognition in six of ten studies, but heterogeneity of study samples, designs and vasodilatory methods may have a role in the inconsistent findings. We make recommendations for future research that includes use of a multi-domain cognitive assessment and standardised hypercapnic challenge with MRI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21
Number of pages15
JournalBMC Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain
  • Cerebrovascular reactivity
  • Cognition
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Vasodilation

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