The impact of age on cerebral perfusion, oxygenation and metabolism during exercise in humans

Igor D Braz, James P Fisher

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15 Citations (Scopus)
142 Downloads (Pure)


Age is one of the most important risk factors for dementia and stroke. Examination of the cerebral circulatory responses to acute exercise in the elderly may help to pinpoint the mechanisms by which exercise training can reduce the risk of brain diseases, inform the optimization of exercise training programmes and assist with the identification of age-related alterations in cerebral vascular function. During low-to-moderate intensity dynamic exercise, enhanced neuronal activity is accompanied by cerebral perfusion increases of ∼10-30%. Beyond ∼60-70% maximal oxygen uptake, cerebral metabolism remains elevated but perfusion in the anterior portion of the circulation returns towards baseline, substantively because of a hyperventilation-mediated reduction in the partial pressure of arterial carbon dioxide (P aC O2) and cerebral vasoconstriction. Cerebral perfusion is lower in older individuals, both at rest and during incremental dynamic exercise. Nevertheless, the increase in the estimated cerebral metabolic rate for oxygen and the arterial-internal jugular venous differences for glucose and lactate are similar in young and older individuals exercising at the same relative exercise intensities. Correction for the age-related reduction in P aC O2 during exercise by the provision of supplementary CO2 is suggested to remove ∼50% of the difference in cerebral perfusion between young and older individuals. A multitude of candidates could account for the remaining difference, including cerebral atrophy, and enhanced vasoconstrictor and blunted vasodilatory pathways. In summary, age-related reductions in cerebral perfusion during exercise are partly associated with a lower P aC O2 in exercising older individuals; nevertheless the cerebral extraction of glucose, lactate and oxygen appear to be preserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Early online date2 Nov 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Nov 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology (medical)


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