Individuals with high-level spinal cord injury (SCI) experience low blood pressure (BP) and cognitive impairments. Such dysfunction may be mediated in part by impaired neurovascular coupling (NVC) (i.e., cerebral blood flow responses to neurologic demand). Ten individuals with SCI > T6 spinal segment, and 10 age- and sex-matched controls were assessed for beat-by-beat BP, as well as middle and posterior cerebral artery blood flow velocity (MCAv, PCAv) in response to a NVC test. Tests were repeated in SCI after 10 mg midodrine (alpha1-agonist). Verbal fluency was measured before and after midodrine in SCI, and in the control group as an index of cognitive function. At rest, mean BP was lower in SCI (70±10 versus 92±14 mm Hg; P<0.05); however, PCAv conductance was higher (0.56±0.13 versus 0.39±0.15 cm/second/mm Hg; P<0.05). Controls exhibited a 20% increase in PCAv during cognition; however, the response in SCI was completely absent (P<0.01). When BP was increased with midodrine, NVC was improved 70% in SCI, which was reflected by a 13% improved cognitive function (P<0.05). Improvements in BP were related to improved cognitive function in those with SCI (r2=0.52; P<0.05). Impaired NVC, secondary to low BP, may partially mediate reduced cognitive function in individuals with high-level SCI.
- brain blood flow