Relationship Between Age and Cerebral Hemodynamic Response to Breath Holding: A Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Study

Keerthana Deepti Karunakaran, Katherine Ji, Donna Y. Chen, Nancy D. Chiaravalloti, Haijing Niu, Tara L. Alvarez, Bharat B. Biswal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) is routinely measured as a predictor of stroke in people with a high risk of ischemic attack. Neuroimaging techniques such as emission tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and transcranial doppler are frequently used to measure CVR even though each technique has its limitations. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), also based on the principle of neurovascular coupling, is relatively inexpensive, portable, and allows for the quantification of oxy- and deoxy-hemoglobin concentration changes at a high temporal resolution. This study examines the relationship between age and CVR using fNIRS in 45 young healthy adult participants aged 18–41 years (6 females, 26.64 ± 5.49 years) performing a simple breath holding task. Eighteen of the 45 participants were scanned again after a week to evaluate the feasibility of fNIRS in reliably measuring CVR. Results indicate (a) a negative relationship between age and hemodynamic measures of breath holding task in the sensorimotor cortex of 45 individuals and (b) widespread positive coactivation within medial sensorimotor regions and between medial sensorimotor regions with supplementary motor area and prefrontal cortex during breath holding with increasing age. The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) indicated only a low to fair/good reliability of the breath hold hemodynamic measures from sensorimotor and prefrontal cortices. However, the average hemodynamic response to breath holding from the two sessions were found to be temporally and spatially in correspondence. Future improvements in the sensitivity and reliability of fNIRS metrics could facilitate fNIRS-based assessment of cerebrovascular function as a potential clinical tool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-166
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Topography
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


  • Aging
  • Breath hold
  • Cerebrovascular reactivity
  • Hemodynamics
  • fNIRS


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