The role of cerebral small vessel disease in cognitive aging

PI: Chengxuan Qiu

Senior Lecturer in Medicine

This 3-year research project aims to advance our understanding of the role of cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) in cognitive aging, including dementia and problems in memory, thinking, attention, or judgment, taking genetic susceptibility into account. Findings will help us better understand the vascular pathways of cognitive aging, improve clinical management of mild cognitive impairment, and facilitate the development of preventive and therapeutic approaches to delay the onset of dementia.

The proposal is based on the hypothesis that vascular risk factors (e.g., smoking, obesity, and hypertension) contribute to the onset and progression of mild cognitive impairment and dementia via their impact on cerebral small blood vessels. Moreover, the hypothesis proposes that certain genes modify the effects of vascular risk factors on cerebral SVD and cognitive decline.

We will test the hypothesis using data from two large-scale longitudinal population-based imaging studies, the Swedish National study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen (SNAC-K) and the AGES-Reykjavik Study. We first investigate the roles of vascular risk factors and cerebral SVD in cognitive decline and dementia, as well as the impact of genetic susceptibility. Then we assess the association between the load of cerebral SVD and cognitive aging. Finally, we examine whether retinal microvascular and degenerative signs might be markers of brain lesions and whether they contribute to the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

The project is funded by a grant from the Swedish Research Council.