MRI study of cerebral blood flow, vascular reactivity, and vascular coupling in systemic hypertension

Yunxia Li, Renren Li, Meng Liu, Zhiyu Nie, Eric R. Muir, Tim Q. Duong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Chronic hypertension alters cerebrovascular function, which can lead to neurovascular pathologies and increased susceptibility to neurological disorders. The purpose of this study was to utilize in vivo MRI methods with corroborating immunohistology to evaluate neurovascular dysfunction due to progressive chronic hypertension. The spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) model at different stages of hypertension was studied to evaluate: i) basal cerebral blood flow (CBF), ii) cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) assessed by CBF and blood-oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signal changes to hypercapnia, iii) neurovascular coupling from CBF and BOLD changes to forepaw stimulation, and iv) damage of neurovascular unit (NVU) components (microvascular, astrocyte and neuron densities). Comparisons were made with age-matched normotensive Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats. In 10-week SHR (mild hypertension), basal CBF was higher (p < 0.05), CVR trended higher, and neurovascular coupling response was higher (p < 0.05), compared to normotensive rats. In 40-week SHR (severe hypertension), basal CBF, CVR, and neurovascular coupling response were reversed to similar or below normotensive rats, and were significantly different from 10-week SHR (p < 0.05). Immunohistological analysis found significantly reduced microvascular density, increased astrocytes, and reduced neuronal density in SHR at 40 weeks (p < 0.05) but not at 10 weeks (p > 0.05) in comparison to age-matched controls. In conclusion, we observed a bi-phasic basal CBF, CVR and neurovascular coupling response from early to late hypertension using in vivo MRI, with significant changes prior to changes in the NVU components from histology. MRI provides clinically relevant data that might be useful to characterize neurovascular pathogenesis on the brain in hypertension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number147224
JournalBrain research
StatePublished - Feb 15 2021


  • Cerebral blood flow
  • Cerebrovascular reactivity
  • Hypertension
  • Neurovascular unit
  • Spontaneously hypertensive rat
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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