DETROIT — Researchers at the Wayne State University School of Medicine have shown that reduced blood flow from the heart leads to loss of gray matter in the brain.

This novel work, led by Pratik Bhattacharya M.D., assistant professor of neurology and the stroke quality officer of the Detroit Medical Center, was recently published in the Journal of Neurological Sciences.

“We showed that low left ventricular ejection fraction may lead to cerebral grey matter injury,” Bhattacharya said.

Using fully automated software known as Siena, Bhattacharya observed that the lower the cardiac ejection fraction, the lower the gray matter volume. This relationship was not observed for the cerebral white matter.

The discovery suggests the unique sensitivity of the cerebral gray matter to possible chronic hypoxic injury in patients with poor cardiac outflow. Further studies are needed to examine how to optimize strategies to treat cardiac failure, reduce or prevent further cortical injury.

The research was performed in the MR Image Analysis Laboratory of Omar Khan, M.D., professor and interim chair of Neurology, who is the senior author of the study. Khan said the findings are intriguing and provide a major opportunity to investigate mechanisms of cerebral gray matter injury in patients with varying degrees of heart failure.

Results of the study could be extended to other conditions associated with states of chronic hypoxia, such as sleep apnea and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which affects millions of Americans. This may also provide clues into the cognitive impairment that is often reported in these patients.

Additionally, the study opens a window to examine cerebral gray matter injury in traumatic brain injury.

Bhattacharya and Khan plan to organize a major research project across disciplines to investigate cerebral gray matter injury in states of chronic hypoxia, including neuropsychological aspects and genetic determinants related to it.

Khan praised the study as a “remarkable effort” by Bhattacharya that creates the road map using a programmatic and translational approach based on a major new finding in the field of neurosciences at Wayne State University.


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