The brain is cleaned from waste by glymphatic clearance serving a similar purpose as the lymphatic system in the rest of the body. Impairment of the glymphatic brain clearance precedes protein accumulation and reduced cognitive function in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Cardiovascular pulsations are a primary driving force of the glymphatic brain clearance. We developed a method to quantify cardiovascular pulse propagation in the human brain with magnetic resonance encephalography (MREG). We extended a standard optical flow estimation method to three spatial dimensions, with a multi-resolution processing scheme. We added application-specific criteria for discarding inaccurate results. With the proposed method, it is now possible to estimate the propagation of cardiovascular pulse wavefronts from the whole brain MREG data sampled at 10 Hz. The results show that on average the cardiovascular pulse propagates from major arteries via cerebral spinal fluid spaces into all tissue compartments in the brain. We present an example, that cardiovascular pulsations are significantly altered in AD: coefficient of variation and sample entropy of the pulse propagation speed in the lateral ventricles change in AD. These changes are in line with the theory of glymphatic clearance impairment in AD. The proposed non-invasive method can assess a performance indicator related to the glymphatic clearance in the human brain.
Last updated: 7.4.2020