Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of neurodegenerative cognitive impairment, defined by abnormal accumulations of amyloid-β and tau. Approaches directly targeting these proteins have not resulted in a disease modifying therapy. Neurovascular unit dysfunction is a feature of AD offering an alternative target for intervention. Sildenafil, a phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitor, improves cognitive functioning in mouse models of AD. Recent work in AD patients has demonstrated increased cerebral blood flow, as well as brain oxygen utilization after a single dose of sildenafil. Its effect on nitric oxide-cGMP signaling may have downstream effects on neuroplasticity, amyloid-β processing, and improved neurovascular unit function. Fractional amplitude of low frequency fluctuations (fALFF) assesses spontaneous neural activity via resting state fMRI BOLD signal (0.01-0.08 or 0.10Hz). In AD, other assessments have revealed increased fALFF in hippocampi and parahippocampal gyri. Here, we examined the effects of a single dose of sildenafil on fALFF in a cohort of 10 AD patients. We found a decrease (p<0.03, α=0.05) in fALFF an hour after sildenafil administration in the right hippocampus. Additionally, cerebral vascular reactivity in response to carbon dioxide inhalation, a measure of neural vascular reserve previously collected on most of these participants, was not significantly correlated with this decrease, implying that change in fALFF may not have been solely due to altered vascular reactivity to CO2. We demonstrate that in patients with AD, hippocampal fALFF decreases in response to sildenafil, suggesting a normalization. These findings support further investigation into the effects of sildenafil in AD.
- Alzheimer's disease
- cognitive impairment
- fractional amplitude of low frequency fluctuations
- functional magnetic resonance imaging