Visible Virchow-Robin spaces on magnetic resonance imaging of Alzheimer's disease patients and normal elderly from the Sunnybrook Dementia Study

J Alzheimers Dis. 2015;43(2):415-24. doi: 10.3233/JAD-132528.


Background: Visible Virchow-Robin spaces (VRS) are commonly used markers for small vessel disease in aging and dementia.

Objective: However, as previous reports were based on subjective visual ratings, the goal of this project was to validate and apply an MRI-based quantitative measure of VRS as a potential neuroimaging biomarker.

Methods: A modified version of Lesion Explorer was applied to MRIs from Alzheimer's disease patients (AD: n = 203) and normal elderly controls (NC: n = 94). Inter-rater reliability, technique validity, group/gender differences, and correlations with other small vessel disease markers were examined (lacunes and white matter hyperintensities, WMH).

Results: Inter-rater reliability and spatial congruence was excellent (ICC = 0.99, SI = 0.96), and VRS volumes were highly correlated with established rating scales (CS: ρ = 0.84, p < 0.001; BG: ρ = 0.75, p < 0.001). Compared to NC, AD had significantly greater volumes of WMH (p < 0.01), lacunes (p < 0.001), and VRS in the white matter (p < 0.01), but not in the basal ganglia (n.s.). Compared to women, demented and non-demented men had greater VRS in the white matter (p < 0.001), but not in the basal ganglia (n.s.). Additionally, VRS were correlated with lacunes and WMH, but only in AD (r = 0.3, p < 0.01).

Conclusion: Compared to women, men may be more susceptible to greater volumes of VRS, particularly in the white matter. RESULTS support the hypothesis that VRS in the white matter may be more related to AD-related vascular pathology compared to VRS found in the basal ganglia. Future work using this novel VRS segmentation tool will examine its potential utility as an imaging biomarker of vascular rather than parenchymal amyloid.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Virchow-Robin; lacunes; perivascular spaces; small vessel disease; white matter hyperintensities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Cerebral Ventricles / pathology*
  • Dura Mater / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Pia Mater / pathology*
  • Reproducibility of Results