Neurocognition is impaired in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). We propose that the impairment relates to postural cerebral hemodynamics. Twenty-five CFS subjects and twenty control subjects underwent incremental upright tilt at 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, and 75° with continuous measurement of arterial blood pressure and cerebral blood flow velocity (CBFV). We used an n-back task with n ranging from 0 to 4 (increased n = increased task difficulty) to test working memory and information processing. We measured n-back outcomes by the number of correct answers and by reaction time. We measured CBFV, critical closing pressure (CCP), and CBFV altered by neuronal activity (activated CBFV) during each n value and every tilt angle using transcranial Doppler ultrasound. N-back outcome in control subjects decreased with n valve but was independent of tilt angle. N-back outcome in CFS subjects decreased with n value but deteriorated as orthostasis progressed. Absolute mean CBFV was slightly less than in control subjects in CFS subject at each angle. Activated CBFV in control subjects was independent of tilt angle and increased with n value. In contrast, activated CBFV averaged 0 in CFS subjects, decreased with angle, and was less than in control subjects. CCP was increased in CFS subjects, suggesting increased vasomotor tone and decreased metabolic control of CBFV. CCP did not change with orthostasis in CFS subjects but decreased monotonically in control subjects, consistent with vasodilation as compensation for the orthostatic reduction of cerebral perfusion pressure. Increasing orthostatic stress impairs neurocognition in CFS subjects. CBFV activation, normally tightly linked to cognitive neuronal activity, is unrelated to cognitive performance in CFS subjects; the increased CCP and vasomotor tone may indicate an uncoupling of the neurovascular unit during orthostasis.
- orthostatic stress
- functional hyperemia
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