Vascular Function Is Improved After an Environmental Enrichment Program
The Train the Brain–Mind the Vessel Study
Environmental enrichment may slow cognitive decay possibly acting through an improvement in vascular function. Aim of the study was to assess the effects of a 7-month cognitive, social, and physical training program on cognitive and vascular function in patients with mild cognitive impairment. In a single-center, randomized, parallel-group study, 113 patients (age, 65–89 years) were randomized to multidomain training (n=55) or usual care (n=58). All participants underwent neuropsychological tests and vascular evaluation, including brachial artery flow-mediated dilation, carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity, carotid distensibility, and assessment of circulating hematopoietic CD34+ and endothelial progenitor cells. At study entry, an age-matched control group (n=45) was also studied. Compared with controls, patients had at study entry a reduced flow-mediated dilation (2.97±2.14% versus 3.73±2.06%; P=0.03) and hyperemic stimulus (shear rate area under the curve, 19.1±15.7 versus 25.7±15.1×10−3; P=0.009); only the latter remained significant after adjustment for confounders (P=0.03). Training improved Alzheimer disease assessment scale cognitive (training, 14.0±4.8 to 13.1±5.5; nontraining, 12.1±3.9 to 13.2±4.8; P for interaction visit×training=0.02), flow-mediated dilation (2.82±2.19% to 3.40±1.81%, 3.05±2.08% to 2.24±1.59%; P=0.006; P=0.023 after adjustment for diameter and shear rate area under the curve), and circulating hematopoietic CD34+ cells and prevented the decline in carotid distensibility (18.4±5.3 to 20.0±6.6, 23.9±11.0 to 19.5±7.1 Pa−1; P=0.005). The only clinical predictor of improvement of cognitive function after training was established hypertension. There was no correlation between changes in measures of cognitive and vascular function. In conclusion, a multidomain training program slows cognitive decline, especially in hypertensive individuals. This effect is accompanied by improved systemic endothelial function, mobilization of progenitor CD34+ cells, and preserved carotid distensibility.
- Received July 25, 2017.
- Revision received August 9, 2017.
- Accepted March 15, 2018.
- © 2018 American Heart Association, Inc.