Life-long aerobic exercise preserved baseline cerebral blood flow but reduced vascular reactivity to CO2

Binu P. Thomas, Uma S. Yezhuvath, Benjamin Y. Tseng, Peiying Liu, Benjamin D. Levine, Rong Zhang, Hanzhang Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Purpose To examine the potential benefits of life-long aerobic exercise on brain health, in particular cerebrovascular function. Materials and Methods Ten Masters athletes (MA) (seven males, three females; 74.5 ± 5.8 years) and 10 sedentary elderly individuals (SE) (eight males, two females; 75.4 ± 5.6 years) were recruited and baseline cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebral vascular reactivity (CVR) to CO2 were measured on a 3T MRI scanner. Nine sedentary young subjects were also recruited to serve as a control group to verify the age effect. Results When compared to the SE group, MA showed higher CBF in posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus, which are key regions of the default-mode-network and are known to be highly sensitive to age and dementia. CVR in the MA brains were paradoxically lower than that in SE. This effect was present throughout the brain. Within the MA group, individuals with higher VO2max had an even lower CVR, suggesting a dose-response relationship. Conclusion Life-long aerobic exercise preserved blood supply in the brain's default-mode-network against age-related degradation. On the other hand, its impact on the cerebral vascular system seems to be characterized by a dampening of CO2 reactivity, possibly because of desensitization effects due to a higher lifetime exposure. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2013;38:1177-1183. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1177-1183
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • CO
  • arterial-spin-labeling
  • cerebral blood flow
  • cerebral vascular reactivity
  • masters athletes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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