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Quantitative measurements of enlarged perivascular spaces in the brain are associated with retinal microvascular parameters in older community-dwelling subjects

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number100002
JournalCerebral Circulation—Cognition and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2020


Background: Perivascular Spaces (PVS) become increasingly visible with advancing age on brain MRI, yet their relationship to morphological changes in the underlying microvessels remains poorly understood. Retinal and cerebral microvessels share morphological and physiological properties. We compared computationally-derived PVS morphologies with retinal vessel morphologies in older people. Methods: We analysed data from community-dwelling individuals who underwent multimodal brain MRI and retinal fundus camera imaging at mean age 72.55 years (SD=0.71). We assessed centrum semiovale PVS computationally to determine PVS total volume and count, and mean per-subject individual PVS length, width and size. We analysed retinal images using the VAMPIRE software suite, obtaining the Central Retinal Artery and Vein Equivalents (CRVE and CRAE), Arteriole-to-Venule ratio (AVR), and fractal dimension (FD) of both eyes. We investigated associations using general linear models, adjusted for age, gender, and major vascular risk factors. Results: In 381 subjects with all measures, increasing total PVS volume and count were associated with decreased CRAE in the left eye (volume β=-0.170, count β=-0.184, p<0.001). No associations of PVS with CRVE were found. The PVS total volume, individual width and size increased with decreasing FD of the arterioles (a) and venules (v) of the left eye (total volume: FDa β=-0.137, FDv β=-0.139, p<0.01; width: FDa β=-0.144, FDv β=-0.158, p<0.01; size: FDa β=-0.157, FDv β=-0.162, p<0.01). Conclusions: Increase in PVS number and size visible on MRI reflect arteriolar narrowing and lower retinal arteriole and venule branching complexity, both markers of impaired microvascular health. Computationally-derived PVS metrics may be an early indicator of failing vascular health and should be tested in longitudinal studies.

    Research areas

  • MRI, ageing, perivascular spaces, retina

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