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Older adults with perivascular spaces exhibit cerebrovascular reactivity deficits



Perivascular spaces on brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may indicate poor fluid drainage in the brain and have been associated with numerous neurological conditions. Cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) is a marker of cerebrovascular function and represents the ability of cerebral blood vessels to regulate cerebral blood flow in response to vasodilatory or vasoconstrictive stimuli. We aimed to examine whether pathological widening of the perivascular space in older adults may be associated with deficits in CVR.


Independently living older adults free of dementia or clinical stroke were recruited from the community and underwent brain MRI. Pseudo-continuous arterial spin labeling MRI quantified whole brain cerebral perfusion at rest and during CVR to hypercapnia and hypocapnia induced by visually guided breathing exercises. Perivascular spaces were visually scored using existing scales.


Thirty-seven independently living older adults (mean age = 66.3 years; SD = 6.8; age range 55-84 years; 29.7% male) were included in the current analysis. Multiple linear regression analysis revealed a significant negative association between burden of perivascular spaces and global CVR to hypercapnia (B = -2.0, 95% CI (-3.6, -0.4), p = .015), adjusting for age and sex. Perivascular spaces were not related to CVR to hypocapnia.


Perivascular spaces are associated with deficits in cerebrovascular vasodilatory response, but not vasoconstrictive response. Enlargement of perivascular spaces could contribute to, or be influenced by, deficits in CVR. Additional longitudinal studies are warranted to improve our understanding of the relationship between cerebrovascular function and perivascular space enlargement.

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