Assessing the health of ageing blood vessels in the brain using fMRI

Year of award: 2016


  • Dr Kevin Murphy

    Cardiff University

Project summary

Problems with the brain caused by poor blood flow are on the rise due to our ageing population. Disorders such as stroke and haemorrhage affect 272,000 people in the UK annually, costing the NHS £3.2 billion. There is evidence to suggest that poor blood flow is a factor in conditions associated with memory problems, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

I plan to develop a way of assessing the health of the brain’s blood vessels. This will allow researchers to track deterioration of the vessels as people age and will open the possibility of treating associated brain conditions before they become problematic. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is an ideal method to do this because the signals it measures are derived from the properties of the brain’s blood vessels. Smooth muscles around small arteries in the brain allow them to open to increase blood flow when more blood is required in a particular area of the brain. If the muscles are not functioning well, too little blood will be supplied, causing problems for the brain.

I will develop a way to measure how well the smooth muscle responds to the brain’s needs and use this tool to demonstrate how this blood vessel function changes with age and disease.