AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017

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Research Links Heart Function to Brain’s Memory Center

Research by a team of Vanderbilt University Medical Center scientists suggests that older people whose hearts pump less blood have blood flow reductions in the temporal lobe regions of the brain, where Alzheimer’s pathology first begins.

The brain, which accounts for only 2 percent of total body weight, typically receives 12 percent of blood flow from the heart—a level typically maintained by complex, automatic processes, which maintain consistent blood flow to the brain at all times.

Angela Jefferson, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Memory & Alzheimer’s Center, and colleagues at Vanderbilt University Medical Center investigated whether lower cardiac index (the amount of blood flowing out of the heart adjusted for body size) correlated with lower blood flow to the brain. The purpose of the study was to better understand whether reductions in brain blood flow might explain clinical observations in prior research that have linked heart function to cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

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