The neural–vascular basis of age-related processing speed decline

Yuguang Zhao, Peiying Liu, Monroe P. Turner, Dema Abdelkarim, Hanzhang Lu, Bart Rypma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Most studies examining neurocognitive aging are based on the blood-oxygen level-dependent signal obtained during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The physiological basis of this signal is neural–vascular coupling, the process by which neurons signal cerebrovasculature to dilate in response to an increase in active neural metabolism due to stimulation. These fMRI studies of aging rely on the hemodynamic equivalence assumption that this process is not disrupted by physiologic deterioration associated with aging. Studies of neural–vascular coupling challenge this assumption and show that neural–vascular coupling is closely related to cognition. In this review, we put forward a theory of processing speed decline in aging and how it is related to age-related neural–vascular coupling changes based on the results of studies elucidating the relationships between cognition, cerebrovascular dynamics, and aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13845
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • brain
  • calibrated fMRI
  • fMRI
  • neurocognitive aging
  • neurovascular coupling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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