Cerebral cortical microinfarcts (CMIs) are small ischemic lesions associated with cognitive impairment and dementia. CMIs are frequently observed in cortical watershed areas suggesting that hypoperfusion contributes to their development. We investigated if presence of CMIs was related to a decrease in cerebral perfusion, globally or specifically in cortex surrounding CMIs. In 181 memory clinic patients (mean age 72 ± 9 years, 51% male), CMI presence was rated on 3-T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Cerebral perfusion was assessed from cortical gray matter of the anterior circulation using pseudo-continuous arterial spin labeling parameters cerebral blood flow (CBF) (perfusion in mL blood/100 g tissue/min) and spatial coefficient of variation (CoV) (reflecting arterial transit time (ATT)). Patients with CMIs had a 12% lower CBF (beta = -.20) and 22% higher spatial CoV (beta = .20) (both p < .05) without a specific regional pattern on voxel-based CBF analysis. CBF in a 2 cm region-of-interest around the CMIs did not differ from CBF in a reference zone in the contralateral hemisphere. These findings show that CMIs in memory clinic patients are primarily related to global reductions in cerebral perfusion, thus shedding new light on the etiology of vascular brain injury in dementia.
Keywords: Arterial spin labeling; cerebral perfusion; dementia; microinfarct; vascular cognitive impairment.