Vascular Burden Score Impacts Cognition Independent of Amyloid PET and MRI Measures of Alzheimer's Disease and Vascular Brain Injury

J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;68(1):187-196. doi: 10.3233/JAD-180965.


Background/objective: To determine the impact of vascular burden on rates of decline in episodic memory and executive function. We hypothesize that greater vascular burden will have an additive negative impact on cognition after accounting for baseline cognitive impairment, positron emission tomography (PET) amyloid burden, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures.

Methods: Individuals were followed an average of 5 years with serial cognitive assessments. Predictor variables include vascular burden score (VBS), quantitative brain MRI assessment, and amyloid imaging. Subjects consisted of 65 individuals, 53% of whom were male, aged 73.2±7.2 years on average with an average of 15.5±3.3 years of educational achievement.

Results: Baseline cognitive impairment was significantly associated poorer episodic memory (p < 0.0001), smaller hippocampal volume (p < 0.0001), smaller brain volume (p = 0.0026), and greater global Pittsburg Imaging Compound B (PiB) index (p = 0.0008). Greater amyloid burden was associated with greater decline in episodic memory over time (β= -0.20±0.07, p < 0.005). VBS was significantly associated with the level of executive function performance (β= -0.14±0.05, p < 0.005) and there was a significant negative interaction between VBS, cognitive impairment, and PiB index (β= -0.065±0.03, p = 0.03).

Conclusions: Our results find a significant influence of VBS independent of standard MRI measures and cerebral amyloid burden on executive function. In addition, VBS reduced the amount of cerebral amyloid burden needed to result in cognitive impairment. We conclude that the systemic effects of vascular disease as reflected by the VBS independently influence cognitive ability.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; cerebrovascular disorders; cognition; neuroimaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / epidemiology
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / metabolism
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*