Neurovascular Coupling in Special Operations Forces Combat Soldiers. Academic Article uri icon


  • The purpose of this study was to investigate how concussion history affects neurovascular coupling in Special Operations Forces (SOF) combat Soldiers. We studied 100 SOF combat Soldiers [age = 33.5 ± 4.3 years; height = 180.4 ± 6.0 cm; 55 (55.0%) with self-reported concussion history]. We employed transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound to assess neurovascular coupling (NVC) via changes in posterior cerebral artery (PCA) velocity in response to a reading and a visual search task. Baseline TCD data were collected for 2 min. NVC was quantified by the percent change in overall PCA response curves. We employed linear mixed effect models using a linear spline with one knot to assess group differences in percent change observed in the PCA velocity response curves between SOF combat Soldiers with and without a concussion history. Baseline PCA velocity did not significantly differ (t98 = 1.28, p = 0.20) between those with and without concussion history. Relative PCA velocity response curves did not differ between those with and without a concussion history during the reading task (F1,98 = 0.80, p = 0.37) or the visual search task (F1,98 = 0.52, p = 0.47). When assessing only SOF combat Soldiers with a concussion history, differential response to task was significantly greater in those with 3 or more concussions (F1,4341 = 27.24, p < 0.0001) relative to those with 1-2 concussions. Despite no main effect of concussion history on neurovascular coupling response in SOF combat Soldiers, we observed a dose-response based on lifetime concussion incidence. While long-term neurophysiological effects associated with head impact and blast-related injury are currently unknown, assessing NVC response may provide further insight into cerebrovascular function and overall physiological health.

publication date

  • February 2021