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Approved Research

The role of vascular stiffness in longitudinal brain neurodegeneration and microvascular dysfunction, and cognitive performance

Principal Investigator: Dr Baraa Al-Khazraji
Approved Research ID: 71652
Approval date: February 15th 2022

Lay summary

Scientific Rationale: The brain is a highly metabolically active organ and can be impacted by changes in how well our blood vessels work. Brain health be described by the structure (e.g., state of neural tissues) and its function (e.g., cognitive performance). A healthy vascular system plays a large role in maintaining brain health. When blood vessels are not functioning properly, there can be a greater risk of developing brain-related disorders such as cognitive dysfunction or dementia.  One of the ways in which blood vessel dysfunction can negative affect brain health is when our blood vessels stiffen as we age, which can create bouts of lower brain blood flow and can lead to declines in overall brain structure and function. 

Aim: While the evidence supports the relationship between arterial stiffness and brain health, we still do not understand whether a faster rate of arterial stiffening causes faster declines in brain health that go beyond what is typically expected with normal brain aging. We aim to study how arterial stiffness relates to structure and functional aspects of brain health, which will be assessed using measures derived from brain images, and cognitive performance test, respectively. Our study aims to further understand how measures of arterial stiffness can potentially influence declines in brain health beyond what is expected in the normal aging process.

Significance: Findings from this study may inform timing of treatment and the development of novel cardiovascular health management approaches to reverse or reduce arterial stiffness, and subsequently slow or prevent the progression of pathological brain aging.