Donna Y Chen, Xin Di, Xin Yu, Bharat B Biswal

The significance and limited influence of cerebrovascular reactivity on age and sex effects in task- and resting-state brain activity

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Abstract Functional MRI measures the blood-oxygen-level dependent signals, which provide an indirect measure of neural activity mediated by neurovascular responses. Cerebrovascular reactivity affects both task-induced and resting-state blood-oxygen-level dependent activity and may confound inter-individual effects, such as those related to aging and biological sex. We examined a large dataset containing breath-holding, checkerboard, and resting-state tasks. We used the breath-holding task to measure cerebrovascular reactivity, used the checkerboard task to obtain task-based activations, and quantified resting-state activity with amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations and regional homogeneity. We hypothesized that cerebrovascular reactivity would be correlated with blood-oxygen-level dependent measures and that accounting for these correlations would result in better estimates of age and sex effects. We found that cerebrovascular reactivity was correlated with checkerboard task activations in the visual cortex and with amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations and regional homogeneity in widespread fronto-parietal regions, as well as regions with large vessels. We also found significant age and sex effects in cerebrovascular reactivity, some of which overlapped with those observed in amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations and regional homogeneity. However, correcting for the effects of cerebrovascular reactivity had very limited influence on the estimates of age and sex. Our results highlight the limitations of accounting for cerebrovascular reactivity with the current breath-holding task.

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