We tested the hypothesis that transient deficits in cerebral blood flow are associated with postural sway. In 19 young, healthy adults, we examined the association between the drop in cerebral blood flow during supine-to-stand transitions, indexed by transcranial Doppler ultrasound [middle cerebral artery blood velocity at diastole (MCAdv)] and near-infrared spectroscopy [tissue saturation index (TSI)] and the center of pressure displacement while standing. Participants performed transitions under three conditions aimed at progressively increasing the drop in MCAdv, in a randomized order: 1) a control transition (Con); 2) a transition that coincided with deflation of bilateral thigh cuffs; and 3) a transition that coincided with both thigh-cuff deflation and 90 s of prior hyperventilation (HTC). The deficit in diastolic blood velocity (MCAdv deficit) was quantified as the difference between MCAdv and its preceding baseline value, summed over 10 s, beginning at the MCAdv nadir. Compared with Con, HTC led to greater drops in MCAdv ( P = 0.003) and TSI ( P < 0.001) at nadir. The MCAdv deficit was positively associated with the center of pressure displacement vector-average using repeated-measures correlation (repeated-measures correlation coefficient = 0.56, P < 0.001). An a posteriori analysis identified a sub-group of participants that showed an exaggerated increase in MCAdv deficit and greater postural instability in both the anterior-posterior ( P = 0.002) and medial-lateral ( P = 0.021) directions in response to the interventions. These findings support the theory that individuals who experience greater initial cerebral hypoperfusion on standing may be at a greater risk for falls.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY Dizziness and risk for falls after standing might link directly to reduced delivery of oxygen to the brain. By introducing challenges that increased the drop in brain blood flow in healthy young adults, we have shown for the first time a direct link to greater postural instability. These results point to a need to measure cerebral blood flow and/or oxygenation after postural transitions in populations, such as older adults, to assist in fall risk assessment.