European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 519–529 | Cite as

Ageing affects the balance between central and peripheral mechanisms of cerebrovascular regulation with increasing influence of systolic blood pressure levels

  • Sofia Cunha TeixeiraEmail author
  • João Brandão Madureira
  • Elsa Irene Azevedo
  • Pedro Miguel Castro
Original Article



Arterial baroreflex (BR) and cerebral autoregulation (CA) are two major regulatory mechanisms that maintain constant cerebral perfusion. Little is known about the interplay between these mechanisms, particularly when considering the effects of ageing or sex.


We studied the relationship between dynamic CA and BR sensitivity (BRS) in healthy subjects by sex and in different age strata.


95 healthy adults (52% female), 20–80 years-old, were recruited. Arterial blood pressure (Finometer), 3-lead electrocardiogram and cerebral blood flow velocity in middle cerebral arteries (transcranial Doppler) were monitored. We assessed CA by transfer function analysis and BRS in frequency and time domain.


With increasing age, BRS diminished (ANCOVA R2 = 0.281, p < 0.001) but CA parameters did not change significantly (p > 0.05). Overall, there was an inverse relationship between the efficacy of BRS and CA low-frequency gain [multivariate linear regression β = 0.41 (0.31; 0.61), p < 0.001]. However, this association suffers changes with ageing: in older subjects BRS and CA were not correlated [β = 0.10 (− 0.41; 0.62), p = 0.369]. Instead, decreasing systolic blood pressure correlated with less efficient CA [lower CA low-frequency gain β = − 0.02 (− 0.03; − 0.02), p = 0.003]. Sex did not affect BRS and CA relationship.


Cerebral blood supply is governed by a tuned balance between BR and CA which is lost with age as BRS decreases dramatically. Low systolic blood pressure values might be harmful to older subjects as they might reduce the ability to keep cerebral blood flow tightly controlled.


Ageing Sex Cerebral autoregulation Arterial baroreflex Autonomic nervous system 



Arterial blood pressure




Baroreflex sensitivity


Cerebral autoregulation


Cerebral blood flow velocity


Critical closing pressure


Cerebrovascular resistance index


Diastolic blood pressure


High-frequency spectral band


Heart rate


Heart rate variability


Low-frequency spectral band


Mean ABP


Middle cerebral artery


Pulse pressure




Systolic blood pressure


Standard deviation of normal RR intervals


Transcranial Doppler


Transfer function analysis


Very-low frequency spectral band


Time domain cross-correlation BRS


Frequency domain BRS gain


Author contributions

ST, JM, EA and PC conceived and designed research. JM and PC conducted experiments. ST and PC analysed data. ST and PC wrote the manuscript, EA conveyed critical analysis of the results All authors read and approved the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

421_2018_4036_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (310 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 310 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sofia Cunha Teixeira
    • 1
    Email author
  • João Brandão Madureira
    • 1
  • Elsa Irene Azevedo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Pedro Miguel Castro
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Mental Health, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.Cardiovascular Research and Development Centre, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  3. 3.Department of NeurologySão João Hospital CentrePortoPortugal

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