University of Southern California

USC Site ImageImaging Cerebral and Retinal Microvasculature in Cerebral Small Vessel Disease


Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) is the most common vascular cause of dementia, a major contributor to mixed Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, and the cause of about one fifth of all strokes worldwide. This project will develop and evaluate a suite of non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) techniques for in vivo imaging of the cerebral and retinal small vessels. We will measure the morphometry, vascular compliance (or stillness of arteries) and water exchange across the blood-brain barrier of small vessels in the brain and retina of a cohort of aged Latino subjects with varying risks of vascular diseases, along with behavioral and biochemical assessments. In conjunction with parallel efforts at the participating sites of the consortium, this project is expected to lead to biomarkers of SVD that can be applied for phase II and phase III clinical trials to prevent and treat vascular dementia.


Unique Study Cohorts:
Nested longitudinal and cross-sectional study designs using NIH funded epidemiologic studies at USC  

  • USC LALES (Los Angeles Latino Eye Study) –  6000 subjects  
  • USC EEAJ (Estudio de Enfermedad de Alzheimer en Jalisciences) – 200 subjects

Innovative MRI Technologies:

  • High-resolution black blood MRI for visualizing fine perforating arteries (~500mm resolution)
  • Non-invasive arterial spin labeling (ASL) to assess microvascular perfusion, cerebral arterial stiffness, and BBB permeability

Cutting Edge Ophthalmic Imaging Technologies:

  • Optical Coherence Tomography Angiography (OCTA) for in vivo, non-invasive assessment of retinal capillaries (~10μm resolution) 
  • OCTA metrics correlate with clinical severity of diabetic retinopathy and other retinal vascular disease  
  • FDA approved for clinical use, ready for clinical trials



Investigators Information

PI: Danny JJ Wang, PhD, MSCE
Professor of Neurology
Director of Imaging Technology Innovation
Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute
University of Southern California


MPI: John Ringman, MD, MS
Helene and Lou Galen Endowed Professor of Neurology
Keck School of Medicine
University of Southern California


MPI: Amir Kashani, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology
Director of Ocular Imaging Center
University of Southern California Eye institute

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