“The more vascular brain injury the participants had, the worse their memory.”
Vascular brain injury from conditions such as high blood pressure and stroke are greater risk factors for cognitive impairment among non-demented older people than is the deposition of the amyloid plaques in the brain that long have been implicated in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, a study by researchers at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at UC Davis has found.
Published online early today in JAMA Neurology (formerly Archives of Neurology), the study found that vascular brain injury had by far the greatest influence across a range of cognitive domains, including higher-level thinking and the forgetfulness of mild cognitive decline.
The researchers also sought to determine whether there was a correlation between vascular brain injury and the deposition of beta amyloid (Αβ) plaques, thought to be an early and important marker of Alzheimer’s disease, said Bruce Reed, associate director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in Martinez. They also sought to decipher what effect each has on memory and executive functioning.
“We looked at two questions,” said Reed, professor in the Department of Neurology at UC Davis. “The first question was whether those two pathologies correlate to each other, and the simple answer is ‘no.’ Earlier research, conducted in animals, has suggested that having a stroke causes more beta amyloid deposition in the brain. If that were the case, people who had more vascular brain injury should have higher levels of beta amyloid. We found no evidence to support that.”
“The second,” Reed continued, “was whether higher levels of cerebrovascular disease or amyloid plaques have a greater impact on cognitive function in older, non-demented adults. Half of the study participants had abnormal levels of beta amyloid and half vascular brain injury, or infarcts. It was really very clear that the amyloid had very little effect, but the vascular brain injury had distinctly negative effects.”
“The more vascular brain injury the participants had, the worse their memory and the worse their executive function – their ability to organize and problem solve,” Reed said.
Other study authors include Natalie Marchant of UC Berkeley and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging; Roxana Dhada and William Jagust of UC Berkeley; Charles DeCarli and Dan Mungas of UC Davis; Stephen Kriger and Micheal Weiner of UC San Francisco and Nerses Sanossian, Wendy Mack and Helena Chui of the University of Southern California.