Imaging blood-brain barrier function in aging

Inge Catharina Maria Verheggen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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People wish to age in a healthy manner, but unfortunately, cognitive functions often decrease during aging, even in the absence of dementia. It remains unclear what underlies this decrease.
In the vessel wall of the small, cerebral blood vessels the blood-brain barrier separates blood from brain tissue, and maintains the optimal balance for proper brain cell functioning. Blood-brain barrier leakage, measured with contrast-enhanced brain scans, can already be detected in early stage dementia. We investigated whether blood-brain barrier leakage is already present in normal, age-related decline in cognitive functions.
We found that even healthy older people had more blood-brain barrier leakage than younger people. Blood-brain barrier breakdown seems to be a normal, age-related process. We also found that people with most blood-brain barrier leakage showed the greatest decline in their memory retrieval function. This could mean that blood-brain barrier leakage is one of the underlying mechanisms of normal, age-related decline in cognitive functions.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Maastricht University
  • Backes, Walter, Supervisor
  • Verhey, Frans, Supervisor
  • van Boxtel, Martin, Co-Supervisor
Award date1 Jun 2021
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • blood-brain barrier
  • contrast-enhanced MRI
  • neuro-imaging
  • normal aging
  • cognitive aging

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