AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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Memory Loss and Other Cognitive Decline Linked to Blood Vessel Disease in the Brain

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Memory loss, language problems and other symptoms of cognitive decline are strongly associated with diseases of the small blood vessels in the brain, a study has found. The study included 331 volunteers age 60 and older who live in Atahualpa, a small rural village in coastal Ecuador. The subjects were given cognitive tests and brain MRIs. The MRIs were examined for four main components of small vessel disease (SVD). These four components, which include evidence of microbleeds and minor strokes, then were added to create a total SVD score. The score ranges from zero points (no SVD) to 4 points (severe SVD). The study found that that 61 percent of the subjects had zero points on the total SVD score, 20 percent had 1 point, 12 percent had 2 points, 5 percent had 3 points and 2 percent had 4 points. The higher the SVD score, the greater the cognitive decline. Researchers also found that each individual component of SVD predicted cognitive decline as well as the total SVD score did.

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