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Small vessel disease to subcortical dementia: a dynamic model, which interfaces aging, cholinergic dysregulation and the neurovascular unit

Authors Caruso P, Signori R, Moretti R

Received 11 October 2018

Accepted for publication 14 January 2019

Published 7 August 2019 Volume 2019:15 Pages 259—281

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/VHRM.S190470

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Ms Justinn Cochran

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Harry Struijker-Boudier


Paola Caruso, Riccardo Signori, Rita Moretti

Department of Medical, Surgical and Health Sciences, Neurology Clinic, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

Background: Small vessels have the pivotal role for the brain’s autoregulation. The arteriosclerosis-dependent alteration of the brain perfusion is one of the major determinants in small vessel disease. Endothelium distress can potentiate the flow dysregulation and lead to subcortical vascular dementia (sVAD). sVAD increases morbidity and disability. Epidemiological studies have shown that sVAD shares with cerebrovascular disease most of the common risk factors. The molecular basis of this pathology remains controversial.
Purpose: To detect the possible mechanisms between small vessel disease and sVAD, giving a broad vision on the topic, including pathological aspects, clinical and laboratory findings, metabolic process and cholinergic dysfunction.
Methods: We searched MEDLINE using different search terms (“vascular dementia”, “subcortical vascular dementia”, “small vessel disease”, “cholinergic afferents”, etc). Publications were selected from the past 20 years. Searches were extended to Embase, Cochrane Library, and LILIACS databases. All searches were done from January 1, 1998 up to January 31, 2018.
Results: A total of 560 studies showed up, and appropriate studies were included. Associations between traditional vascular risk factors have been isolated. We remarked that SVD and white matter abnormalities are seen frequently with aging and also that vascular and endothelium changes are related with age; the changes can be accelerated by different vascular risk factors. Vascular function changes can be heavily influenced by genetic and epigenetic factors.
Conclusion: Small vessel disease and the related dementia are two pathologies that deserve attention for their relevance and impact in clinical practice. Hypertension might be a historical problem for SVD and SVAD, but low pressure might be even more dangerous; CBF regional selective decrease seems to be a critical factor for small vessel disease-related dementia. In those patients, endothelium damage is a super-imposed condition. Several issues are still debatable, and more research is needed.

Keywords: subcortical vascular dementia, vascular damage, small vessel disease, brain’s autoregulation


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