Carotid artery stiffness and hemodynamic pulsatility during cognitive engagement in healthy adults: A pilot investigation

Kevin S. Heffernan, Nicole L. Spartano, Jacqueline A. Augustine, Wesley K. Lefferts, William E. Hughes, Gary F. Mitchell, Randall S. Jorgensen, Brooks B. Gump

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background The matching of vascular supply to neuronal metabolic demand during cognitive engagement is known as neurovascular coupling (NVC). Arterial stiffness is a prominent determinant of pulsatility in the systemic circulation and may thus indirectly impact NVC. In this pilot investigation, we explored changes in carotid artery stiffness and cerebrovascular hemodynamic pulsatiltiy during cognitive engagement in healthy adults. METHODS Twenty-seven adults (age 39 ± 3 years, BMI 24 ± 1 kg/m2) underwent Doppler ultrasonography of the common carotid artery (CCA) combined with applanation tonometry to derive (i) CCA elastic modulus (Ep) and β-stiffness index; (ii) CCA flow pulsatility index (PI); (iii) CCA pulse pressure, (iv) CCA augmentation index (AIx). Cerebral PI was assessed using transcranial Doppler at the middle cerebral artery (MCA). All measures were made at rest and during an incongruent Stroop task. RESULTS CCA PI was reduced (1.75 ± 0.06 to 1.57 ± 0.06, P < 0.05) while MCA PI was unchanged (0.75 ± 0.02 to 0.75 ± 0.02, P > 0.05) during Stroop. Brachial pulse pressure increased during Stroop (43 ± 1 to 46 ± 1 mm Hg, P < 0.05) while CCA pulse pressure was unchanged (36 ± 1 to 35 ± 1 mm Hg, P > 0.05). Similarly, CCA Ep (54.5 ± 5.5 to 53.8 ± 4.9 kPa, P > 0.05) and β-stiffness index (4.4 ± 0.4 to 4.2 ± 0.3 aU, P > 0.05) were unchanged. CCA AIx increased (1 ± 4 to 13 ± 4%, P < 0.05). CONC LUSION Carotid pressure pulsatility is unaltered while carotid flow pulsatility is reduced during cognitive engagement. Carotid artery stiffness does not change suggesting that factors other than the dynamic elastic properties of the CCA buffer cerebrovascular hemodynamic pulsatility during cognitive engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-622
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Hypertension
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Arterial stiffness
  • Augmentation index
  • Blood pressure
  • Carotid artery
  • Hemodynamics
  • Hypertension
  • Pulsatility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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