The aging brain and dementia

prof. Mark van Buchem MD, Jeroen van der Grond, PhD, Matthias van Osch, PhD and prof. Serge Rombouts, PhD


The focus of this theme is the brain in old age and dementia. In this research program we have two aims.

The first aim is to increase our understanding of the processes that are responsible for age-related decline and dementia. For this aim, characterization of the structural and functional changes that occur in the aging brain serves as a starting point for disentangling the causes and functional consequences of these changes. We use MRI techniques to assess these structural (qualitative and quantitative MRI techniques) and functional changes (perfusion MRI, fMRI, resting-state fMRI). In terms of causes of brain changes, we are particularly interested in the contribution of diseases of the heart and blood vessels to brain changes. On this topic we closely collaborate with the Cardiovascular Imaging Group in our department.

The second aim is to develop imaging markers that allow for early and specific diagnosis of diseases underlying cognitive decline in the elderly. For both aims, we use the whole spectrum of structural and functional MRI techniques and collaborate with multiple disciplines.

Study populations

We study the whole spectrum of cerebral aging (successful aging - usual aging - pathological aging) since we believe that the functional contrast present in this spectrum will help us answering our research questions. The successfully aging subjects we study originate from two large population-based epidemiological studies (the Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik Study (AGES) and the Rotterdam Scan Study) and from the Leiden Longevity Study. The subjects we study with signs of usual aging originate from the same epidemiological studies, and from the PROSPER study, a population-based study on subjects with an increased cardiovascular risk profiles. And subjects suffering from pathological aging are recruited from the memory clinics at the LUMC and Bronovo Hospital (HMC, The Hague), and again originate from the epidemiological studies in Reykjavik and Rotterdam. In addition, we study special populations of subjects suffering from presenile variants of neurodegenerative conditions that usually occur in old age, such as Dutch-type cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA), CADASIL, Alzheimer’s disease, and frontotemporal dementia.

Collaborative networks

This research program is characterized by extensive collaborations involving the following networks: