New 'brain health index' tool can predict cognitive function after stroke

New 'brain health index' tool can predict cognitive function after stroke


Monday, 23 April, 2018

Professor Joanna Wardlaw (Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh) and Dr David Dickie (Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow) have developed a new approach that can assess brain deterioration and help predict cognitive function after stroke up to 10 times more accurately than current methods. They have established a new tool which can quantify visible brain injury from cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) and brain atrophy by translating a vast array of data from brain scans into a single measure known as the ‘brain health index’.

The study involved examining the brain health index of 288 participants in Edinburgh, including stroke and lupus patients as well as healthy volunteers. The brain health index was able to predict cognitive deficits commonly observed in stroke and small vessel disease more strongly than current clinical scoring methods and other computer programmes used to assess brain deterioration. Small vessel disease and brain tissue atrophy both increase with age and are risk factors for stroke and dementia. Treatments to prevent or delay cognitive decline or dementia due to vascular disease are currently limited, however by using the brain health index to examine the risk of future cognitive decline in individuals before symptoms become apparent it can be possible to slow the development of these conditions with appropriate lifestyle adjustments and treatment for risk factors such as blood pressure.

It is hoped that the brain health index will be introduced into clinical practice and may help to improve early identification of cognitive decline and dementia after stroke, and therefore improve treatment for these conditions.

Professor Joanna Wardlaw said: “We found that putting all visible factors on the scan together gave better prediction, yet most current computer methods do not consider all factors available on the scan and may not be suitable for older patients. This is what led to the development of the “brain health index”."

Dr David Dickie said: “We recognised a need for a more inclusive approach to assessing common brain disorders of ageing. Our new method allows us to use every piece of information from a brain scan, rather than just individual features of the brain that can only tell us so much about a person’s risk for cognitive problems.”