Association of Carotid Intima-Media Thickness with Brain MRI Markers in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Neurocognitive Study (ARIC-NCS)

Wendy Wang, Faye L. Norby, Alvaro Alonso, Rebecca F. Gottesman, Clifford R. Jack, Michelle L. Meyer, David S. Knopman, Kevin J. Sullivan, Timothy M. Hughes, Kamakshi Lakshminarayan, Pamela L. Lutsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Elevated carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) and carotid plaque are markers of arterial injury and may be linked to structural brain injury. We hypothesized cIMT or presence of carotid plaque at midlife are associated with presence of infarcts and cerebral microbleeds, greater white matter hyperintensity (WMH) volume, and smaller regional brain volumes in late-life. Methods: We included 1,795 Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study participants (aged 57±6 years, 57% female, 23% Black) with carotid ultrasounds in 1990-1992 and brain MRI scans in 2011-2013. Weighted linear regression was used for brain volume outcomes, while logistic regression was used for infarcts and cerebral microbleeds. Results: After multivariable adjustments, the highest cIMT quintile was associated with smaller deep gray matter (β [95% CI]: -0.11 [-0.22, -0.01]) and cortical volume in a temporal-parietal meta region of interest (ROI) (β [95% CI]: -0.10 [-0.20, -0.01]) in late-life. Similarly, those with carotid plaque had smaller regional brain volumes than those without (βs [95% CIs]: -0.05 [-0.12, 0.03] and -0.06 [-0.13, 0.01] for deep gray matter and temporal-parietal meta ROI). No significant relations were observed with WMH volume, infarcts, or cerebral microbleeds. Conclusion: Over a median follow-up of 21 years, greater midlife cIMT and presence of carotid plaque were associated with smaller deep gray matter volume and cortical volume in a meta ROI involving temporal and parietal lobe regions typically involved in neurodegeneration, including Alzheimer's disease, in later life. Contrary to our hypothesis, associations between measures of arterial injury and markers of vascular brain injury were null.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106388
JournalJournal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Brain imaging
  • Carotid intima-media thickness
  • Carotid plaque
  • Epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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