New Imaging Method Can Identify Brain Damage Caused by High Blood Pressure

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Marji_180915_2According to a new study that is to be presented at the American Heart Association’s 2015 High Blood Pressure Conference, an advanced form of imaging can illustrate brain damage caused by high blood pressure before any clear symptoms of damage are visible.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a risk factor for vascular cognitive problems. In its early stages, doctors have difficulty identifying changes in the brain that are associated with the future development of dementia.

Researchers analyzed 15 participants who were receiving medication for moderate or severe high blood pressure and 15 participants with normal blood pressure. Each participant had his/her brain analyzed with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), as well as a cognitive assessment.

Results indicated that the MRI did not reveal any brain abnormalities in any of the participants. However, DTI revealed that participants who had high blood pressure also had damage to different areas of the brain. Fibers affecting executive functioning, emotional regulation, attention tasks, and nonverbal functions were all damaged in their brains.

Also noteworthy: participants with high blood pressure didn’t perform as well in tests analyzing their memory and cognitive functioning compared to participants with normal blood pressure.

The study’s lead author, Daniela Carnevale, concludes that this new imaging technique can be beneficial in identifying predictive signs of vascular cognitive impairment caused by high blood pressure.

Image copyright jgmarcelino, 2010.

Sources for Today’s Article:

Carnevale, D., et al., “Tractography of white matter connections predicts for vascular cognitive impairment in hypertensive patients,” presented at the American Heart Association’s 2015 High Blood Pressure Conference, September 16–19, 2015, Washington, D.C.

McIntosh, J., “New Imaging Technique Reveals Early Brain Damage Caused by Hypertension,” Medical News Today web site, September 18, 2015;