White matter and hypoxic hypobaria in humans

Stephen A. McGuire, Meghann C. Ryan, Paul M. Sherman, John H. Sladky, Laura M. Rowland, S. Andrea Wijtenburg, L. Elliot Hong, Peter V. Kochunov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Occupational exposure to hypobaria (low atmospheric pressure) is a risk factor for reduced white matter integrity, increased white matter hyperintensive burden, and decline in cognitive function. We tested the hypothesis that a discrete hypobaric exposure will have a transient impact on cerebral physiology. Cerebral blood flow, fractional anisotropy of water diffusion in cerebral white matter, white matter hyperintensity volume, and concentrations of neurochemicals were measured at baseline and 24 hr and 72 hr postexposure in N = 64 healthy aircrew undergoing standard US Air Force altitude chamber training and compared to N = 60 controls not exposed to hypobaria. We observed that hypobaric exposure led to a significant rise in white matter cerebral blood flow (CBF) 24 hr postexposure that remained elevated, albeit not significantly, at 72 hr. No significant changes were observed in structural measurements or gray matter CBF. Subjects with higher baseline concentrations of neurochemicals associated with neuroprotection and maintenance of normal white matter physiology (glutathione, N-acetylaspartate, glutamate/glutamine) showed proportionally less white matter CBF changes. Our findings suggest that discrete hypobaric exposure may provide a model to study white matter injury associated with occupational hypobaric exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3165-3173
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number11
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • hypobaric exposure
  • magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • pseudo continuous arterial spin labeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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