Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia occurs from impaired blood flow to the brain and affects thought processes such as judgement, planning, and memory. It can be the result of a stroke blocking an artery in the brain, or as our research is testing, may be attributed to decreased vascular function due to aging-induced aortic stiffening which may cause microbleeds in the brain.

Extravascular bleeds stained with Prussian Blue

Vascular health is critical for neural function. Damage to the vascular system, particularly in the small vessels in the brain, hinders the brains ability to function properly.

Our current research focuses on the aorta, which functions as a shock absorber and prevents the full force of the heartbeat from reaching delicate blood vessels in the brain. Studies show that the aorta stiffens with age, which limits its ability to protect vessels in the brain from damage. Consequent microbleeds impair brain function and can ultimately lead to dementia.

Vascular dementia involves very similar symptoms to those attributed to Alzheimer’s Disease. Our current research tests the idea that vascular damage in the brain may precede and even lead to Alzheimer’s Disease.