Perivascular spaces are fluid-filled spaces around the cerebral small vessels, commonly seen on brain scans in older adults. They have been thought to be harmless, but a new study challenges this belief.
The study, which looked at older adults who have not yet developed dementia, showed that different markers of small vessel disease reflect distinct pathways of injury. Well-studied markers of small vessel disease include white matter hyperintensities, infarcts and microbleeds, and the most frequent associations in the study unsurprisingly linked white matter hyperintensities and cognition, including language, information processing speed, executive functioning and visuospatial skills.
Much more surprisingly, though, the next most frequent links were between enlarged perivascular spaces and information processing speed and executive functioning.
(2019). Perivascular spaces contribute to cognition beyond other small vessel disease markers.
Neurology. 92(12), e1309.