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Keywords:

  • vascular risk factors;
  • brain changes;
  • neuroimaging.

Abstract

There is an important correlation between vascular risk factors and nonspecific imaging findings in the brain such as white-matter hyperintensities. These vascular risk factors are also associated with dementia and lesser forms of cognitive impairment. One hypothesis is that these vascular risk factors lead to disruption of connective networks in the central nervous system that are supported by myelinated white-matter fibers, which in turn lead to deficits in functional signaling between various brain regions. Another possibility is an alteration of the neurovascular coupling due to vascular risk factors. This reduced functional signaling contributes to the cognitive deficits in persons harboring these vascular risk factors. Lifestyle changes may restore some of these functional deficits through brain plasticity. It is imperative that preclinical diagnostic techniques are developed to identify these early brain changes in persons harboring vascular risk factors, as such efforts may improve primary and secondary prevention efforts. Recently developed imaging techniques may provide objective imaging biomarkers to measure the structural and functional brain changes in persons with vascular risk factors and resulting subclinical atherosclerotic disease. This article reviews a few of these novel imaging techniques. Mt Sinai J Med 79:674–682, 2012. © 2012 Mount Sinai School of Medicine