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Taking the pulse of aging: Mapping pulse pressure and elasticity in cerebral arteries with optical methods


Cerebrovascular support is crucial for healthy cognitive and brain aging. Arterial stiffening is a cause of reduced brain blood flow, a predictor of cognitive decline, and a risk factor for cerebrovascular accidents and Alzheimer’s disease. Arterial health is influenced by lifestyle factors, such as cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). We investigated new noninvasive optical measures of cerebrovascular health, which provide estimates of arterial pulse parameters (pulse pressure, transit time, and compliance/elasticity) within specific cerebral arteries and cortical regions, and low-resolution maps of large superficial cerebral arteries. We studied naturally occurring variability in these parameters in adults (aged 55–87), and found that these indices of cerebrovascular health are negatively correlated with age and positively with CRF and gray and white matter volumes. Further, regional pulse transit time predicts specific neuropsychological performance.