Experimental models of vascular dementia and vascular cognitive impairment: a systematic review

J Neurochem. 2010 Nov;115(4):814-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2010.06958.x. Epub 2010 Oct 7.


Vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) encompasses vascular dementia and is the second most common cause of dementing illness after Alzheimer's disease. The main causes of VCI are: cerebral small vessel disease; multi-infarct dementia; strategic infarct (i.e. located in a functionally-critical brain area); haemorrhage/microbleed; angiopathy (including cerebral amyloid angiopathy); severe hypoperfusion (e.g. cardiac arrhythmia); and hereditary vasculopathy (e.g. cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy, CADASIL). In this systematic analysis, we aimed to relate cognitive and neuropathological features of experimental models to clinical VCI. We extracted data from 107 studies covering 16 models. These included: brief global ischaemic insults (in rats, mice or gerbils); chronic global hypoperfusion (rats, mice, gerbils); chronic hypertension (in primates or stroke-prone, spontaneously-hypertensive rats); multiple ischaemic lesions because of intra-vascular emboli (in rodents, rabbits or primates); strategic ischaemic lesions (in rats or mini-pigs); generalised vasculopathies, because of mutant Notch3, hyperhomocysteinaemia, experimental diabetes mellitus or lack of cerebral vasodilator M(5) receptors (rats or mice). Most cognitive testing showed deficits in working and reference memory. The lesions observed were microinfarcts, diffuse white matter lesions, hippocampal neuronal death, focal ischaemic lesions and micro-haemorrhages. The most-used model was bilateral carotid artery occlusion in rats, leading to chronic hypoperfusion and white matter injury.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CADASIL / physiopathology
  • Carotid Stenosis / etiology
  • Carotid Stenosis / pathology
  • Carotid Stenosis / physiopathology
  • Carotid Stenosis / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Dementia, Vascular / etiology
  • Dementia, Vascular / pathology
  • Dementia, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Dementia, Vascular / psychology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Humans
  • Species Specificity