Impairments in Cognitive Function and Brain Connectivity in Severe Asymptomatic Carotid Stenosis
Background and Purpose—Severe asymptomatic carotid stenosis has been associated with cognitive impairment, but it is unknown whether this association is attributable to effects on brain connectivity. We present cognitive network abnormalities in a group of patients at a presymptomatic stage.
Methods—Seventeen patients with ≥70% asymptomatic stenosis of unilateral internal carotid artery were compared with 26 healthy controls utilizing a comprehensive neuropsychological battery, the dizziness handicap inventory, and multimodality neuroimaging including diffusion tensor imaging and resting-state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging. Longitudinally, assessments were completed in a subgroup of 10 patients at 3 months after carotid artery stenting.
Results—Compared with the healthy controls, the patients had worse dizziness scores, poorer memory, complex visuo-spatial performances, and lower whole-brain mean fractional anisotropy. The Scheltens scores of leukoaraiosis/infarction were not different between groups. Their seed-based functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging showed marked decrements of interhemispheric and intrahemispheric, ipsilaterally to carotid stenosis, functional connectivity in the frontoparietal network. In the default mode network, the intrahemispheric functional connectivity was bilaterally impaired. Importantly, the disrupted mean fractional anisotropy in the patients significantly correlated with the attention and verbal memory functions. After successful carotid artery stenting, small but measurable increments of the mean fractional anisotropy and little functional connectivity in the default mode network ipsilateral-to-carotid artery stenting were noted.
Conclusions—We identified for the first time distinct patterns of network disruption that correlate with cognitive fragility in patients with asymptomatic carotid stenosis. Brain connectivity may provide early and useful biomarkers for brain ischemia and reperfusion.
- asymptomatic carotid stenosis
- cognitive impairment
- diffusion tensor imaging
- endovascular treatment
- functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging
- resting state
- Received November 29, 2011.
- Accepted July 6, 2012.
- © 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.