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Regional Cerebral Oxygen Consumption, Blood Flow, and Blood Volume in Healthy Human Aging

Gilles Marchal, MD; Patrice Rioux, MD, PhD; Marie-Christine Petit-Taboué, MD; Giuliano Sette, MD; Jean-Marcel Travère, PhD; Claude Le Poec; Patrick Courtheoux, MD; Jean-Michel Derlon, MD; Jean-Claude Baron, MD
Arch Neurol. 1992;49(10):1013-1020. doi:10.1001/archneur.1992.00530340029014.
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ABSTRACT

• Using high-resolution positron emission tomography and the oxygen 15 continuous inhalation method, we examined the changes in cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen, blood flow, blood volume, and oxygen extraction fraction as a function of age in 25 optimally healthy, unmedicated volunteers who ranged in age from 20 to 68 years. Subjects were strictly selected for absence of cerebrovascular risk factors, dementia, or mental disorders; they had neither biological nor clinical abnormalities, and no focal anomaly on computed tomographic scan. Regions of interest were determined according to the anatomical structures defined on corresponding computed tomographic scan cuts obtained using a stereotaxic head-positioning method. This same method was also used for positron emission tomographic imaging. There was no significant effect of aging on Paco2 values, hematocrit, arterial blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and blood glucose levels. In most cerebral cortex gyri, the cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen significantly decreased with age according to a linear pattern, with the same magnitude (about -6% per decade) in all four lobes and on both sides. This effect of age on cortical cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen persisted when the possible influence of cortical atrophy, gender, and head size were partialled out. In contrast, the white matter, deep gray nuclei, thalamus, and cerebellum were not significantly affected. The cerebral blood volume declined with a similar pattern to cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen, while changes in cerebral blood flow were less significant, presumably because of larger variance of data across subjects. Aging left the cerebral blood flow—cerebral blood volume—cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen coupling unaltered, as shown by lack of changes in both the oxygen extraction fraction and the cerebral blood flow—cerebral blood volume ratio. The selective decrease of oxygen metabolism in neocortex during normal aging could result from the combined effects of direct neuronal loss, cellular biological impairment, and functional deafferentation, and could underlie or reflect age-related cognitive changes.

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