Small vessel disease burden and functional brain connectivity in mild cognitive impairment

Sofia Marcolini, Jaime D. Mondragón*, Esther E. Bron, Geert-Jan Biessels, Jurgen A.H.R. Claassen, Janne M. Papma, Huub Middelkoop, Rudi A.J.O. Dierckx, Ronald J.H. Borra, Inez H.G.B. Ramakers, Wiesje M. van der Flier, Natasha M. Maurits, Peter P. De Deyn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: The role of small vessel disease in the development of dementia is not yet completely understood. Functional brain connectivity has been shown to differ between individuals with and without cerebral small vessel disease. However, a comprehensive measure of small vessel disease quantifying the overall damage on the brain is not consistently used and studies using such measure in mild cognitive impairment individuals are missing.

Method: Functional brain connectivity differences were analyzed between mild cognitive impairment individuals with absent or low (n = 34) and high (n = 34) small vessel disease burden using data from the Parelsnoer Institute, a Dutch multicenter study. Small vessel disease was characterized using an ordinal scale considering: lacunes, microbleeds, perivascular spaces in the basal ganglia, and white matter hyperintensities. Resting state functional MRI data using 3 Tesla scanners was analyzed with group-independent component analysis using the CONN toolbox.

Results: Functional connectivity between areas of the cerebellum and between the cerebellum and the thalamus and caudate nucleus was higher in the absent or low small vessel disease group compared to the high small vessel disease group.

Conclusion: These findings might suggest that functional connectivity of mild cognitive impairment individuals with low or absent small vessel disease burden is more intact than in mild cognitive impairment individuals with high small vessel disease. These brain areas are mainly responsible for motor, attentional and executive functions, domains which in previous studies were found to be mostly associated with small vessel disease markers. Our results support findings on the involvement of the cerebellum in cognitive functioning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100192
Number of pages10
JournalCerebral Circulation - Cognition and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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