Edinburgh Research Explorer

Joanna Wardlaw

Personal Chair Applied Neuroimaging

Profile photo
Phone: 0131 465 9599

Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Medicine, University of Edinburgh
Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, University of Edinburgh
Bachelor of Medicine, University of Edinburgh
Hons 1st Class

Professional Qualifications

2008European Qualification in Neuroradiology
1988Fellowship of the Royal College of Radiologists, FRCR
1987Diploma of Medical Radiologists, DMRD
1986Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom, MRCP (UK)

Area of Expertise

Research expertiseNeuroimaging, Cerebrovascular disease, Stroke, Dementia, Small Vessel Disease, Lifecourse effects on the brain, Ageing

Current Research Interests

  • mechanisms, prevention and treatment of cerebral small vessel disease, a common cause of stroke and dementia.
  • MRI methods for assessing blood-brain barrier function, cerebral microvascular reactivity, structural integrity of the brain
  • multimodal image analyses methods to assess and quantify brain structure and function.
  • diagnosis, treatment and prevention of acute ischaemic stroke
  • cost effective use of imaging in stroke diagnosis, prevention and treatment
  • randomised clinical trials, translational studies, observational studies, meta-analyses
  • lifecourse effects on the brain, ageing, stroke and dementia.


My major interests are the pathophysiology, prevention and treatment of brain vascular disease, which I has researched since the 1990s. My first trial of thrombolysis in acute ischemic stroke was testing intra-arterial thrombolysis in 1990-92; and most recent was the 3000+ Third International Stroke Trial (IST-3); throughout this time I maintained the Cochrane Review of Thrombolysis in Acute Ischemic Stroke.

My recent interest is cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) mechanisms, clinical and imaging presentations, standards for assessment of imaging in SVD and I have established a worldwide network of research collaborators. I am now starting trials of interventions to prevent progression of the clinical and cognitive consequences of SVD (LACI-1, LACI-2). I have published many papers on the topic and received several awards for my work.


I have worked constantly to improve facilities for imaging research, first with the Brain Research Imaging Centre, Edinburgh, 1997 - ; then the Scottish Imaging Network, A PLatform for Scientific Excellence (SINAPSE), 2007 - ; and most recently further installations of research scanners including an MR-PET scanner and new 3T MR scanner in the main SE Scotland acute hospital, the Brain Research Imaging Centre 2. Coupled with these developments has been a large expansion of multidisciplinary imaging expertise at all levels.

Training is provided through the online learning MScs in Imaging and Neuroimaging for Research, training days, downloadable instructions and analysis software.

The facilties are managed collectively through Edinburgh Imaging.

My research in a nutshell

I work for the University of Edinburgh and the NHS Lothian. I am an expert in brain scanning. My research focuses on preventing stroke, treating stroke, diagnosing stroke, and finding out more about the causes of different types of stroke. Much of my research has used different types of brain scanning to answer these questions. I have contributed to research that led to clot-busting treatments for stroke, and better use of scanning for patients when they come to hospital after a TIA or stroke, resulting in better guidelines on how to diagnose and treat patients with stroke all over the world. Now, I am researching the causes and treatment of small strokes due to something going wrong in tiny brain blood vessels. This small vessel disease can cause small strokes, or gradual brain damage without the person noticing, that leads to loss of thinking skills and eventually dementia.

Research activities & awards

  1. MRC UK Dementia Research Institute Annual Scientific Meeting (Connectome), Birmingham, UK

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

  2. 2nd Lenstra Lecture 2019, Philantrhopic Endowed Lecture, Swiss Italian Centre for Neuroscience, Lugano, Switzerland

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

  3. Diagnostic Medicine – from stethoscope to artificial intelligence 2019 Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, UK

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

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