- New computer program developed helps predict the risk of developing dementia after stroke
- Brain health index can assess whole brain deterioration and detect cognitive decline 10 times more accurately
- The index helps diagnose and treat dementia and other cognitive problems early
A new computer program has been developed that helps assess deterioration of the brain and can accurately predict cognitive function after stroke up to ten times, reveal scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The new approach helps quantify visible brain injury from cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) and brain atrophy by translating the million-plus bits of information stored in brain scans into a single measure, the "brain health index."
‘The ‘Brain health index’ helps in early identification and treatment of cognitive decline and dementia after stroke.’
The study was published in the International Journal of Stroke.
Cognitive Problems after Stroke
SVD features and brain tissue atrophy are major risk factors for stroke and dementia. Both these factors increase with age and are often present together. Even before symptoms can be identified, the brain health index gives early warning of the risk of future cognitive decline in individuals.
Currently, only limited treatments are available to prevent or delay cognitive decline or dementia due to vascular disease. However, if the risk factors are identified early, the development of these diseases can be slowed down by making changes in lifestyle and risk factors like blood pressure can be treated as well.
At present, doctors can identify when a stroke has occurred with the help of brain scans, which can also provide information if a stroke survivor is at risk of developing cognitive problems or dementia.
Professor Joanna Wardlaw, at the University of Edinburgh, said: "We found that putting all visible factors on the scan together gave a 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 Alexander Dickie, from the University of Glasgow's Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: "We recognized a need for a more inclusive approach to assessing common brain disorders of aging. Our new method allows us to use every piece of information from a brain scan, rather than individual features of the brain that can only tell us so much about a person's risk for cognitive problems."
Is it necessary to Introduce Brain Health Index?
In this study, about 288 participants have been recruited who was from Edinburgh. Participants who had a stroke and lupus patients and healthy working-age volunteers.
Cognitive deficits seen in stroke and SVD can be easily predicted with the brain health index than the validated clinical scoring methods and other computer programs that are used currently for assessing features of brain deterioration.
Dr Dickie added: "Through a unique collaboration between the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, which is funded by the Stroke Association in the UK, the next step is to test the brain health index approach in newly-developed brain scanners, such as the ultra-high resolution 7 Tesla scanner at the University of Glasgow's Imaging Centre of Excellence, and in larger groups of patients."
The research team hopes to introduce brain health index into clinical practices to help identify and treat cognitive decline and dementia after stroke early.
The paper, 'The brain health index: Towards a combined measure of neurovascular and neurodegenerative structural brain injury' was published in the International Journal of Stroke.
Tips to Improve Brain Health
Try new things (learning new skills)
Have stress release mechanisms in place
Have fun, relax, laugh and do things you enjoy
Make time for friends
Sleep at least for 8 hours
Eat a healthy diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fresh fruits and vegetables
Avoid refined foods like breads, pasta,
Treat underlying medical problems like diabetes, heart disease, hormonal imbalances