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2021 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant (AARG)

Trajectories of Vascular Disease in Aging to Predict Dementia

How do changes to the blood vessels between the heart and the brain impact the risk of developing dementia?

Daniel Bos, M.D., Ph.D.
Erasmus University Medical Center
Rotterdam, Netherlands


Studies have found that vascular (blood vessel) disorders, including high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, may increase one’s risk of developing dementia later in life. Specifically, damage to blood vessels between the heart and the brain could be potentially linked to cognitive deficits and dementia. Yet, the impact of changes in specific blood vessels over time on brain changes and the increase in the risk of developing dementia, is unknown.

Research Plan

Dr. Daniel Bos and colleagues will leverage data from the ongoing Rotterdam Study, a large, population-based study in which multiple kinds of health data are being collected to study the development of age-related diseases. For their project, the researchers will leverage data from 2,500 participants of the Rotterdam study. The researchers will compare computed tomography (CT) scans from the participants- taken, on average, fourteen years apart- to visualize sex-specific changes in the blood vessels between the heart and the brain. Further, Dr. Bos’ team will also study brain scans (magnetic resonance imaging or MRI) and performance on cognitive tests at the two time points of the participants. Dr. Bos believes that these datasets could be used to inform potential changes in the brain function and structure over time in the participants and whether these changes could explain the impact of damage to blood vessels on the risk of developing dementia.

Based on the analysis of these datasets, the team will use advanced computer science techniques called machine learning to calculate the “age” of blood vessels called “vascular age”. The researchers will then use the vascular age to predict an individual’s risk of developing dementia.


The results may help us understand how sex-specific changes to blood vessels, connecting the heart and the brain, over time may impact the risk of developing dementia.

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