Scientific title:
Small Vessel Disease - Spotlight on Symptoms (SVD-SOS) - Improving recognition of symptoms and signs of progressing cerebral small vessel disease-related brain damage to prevent cognitive decline, dementia and stroke
University of Edinburgh
Principal investigator:
Dr Fergus Doubal
Grant value:
Research ID:
SA PG 19\100068
Research area:
Start date:
Sunday 1 September 2019
End date:
Wednesday 31 August 2022
3 years
Year awarded:


As people get older, they can develop a disease of the small blood vessels within the brain called cerebral Small Vessel Disease (SVD). SVD is thought to cause around a quarter of strokes. SVD can also be caused by a stroke. It causes damage within the brain which shows up on brain scans as small changes on brain scans (called ‘lesions’).

SVD can cause thinking and memory problems, or stroke-like symptoms. But many SVD symptoms are either ‘silent’ or so subtle that both doctors and patients view them as not important. However, these symptoms could indicate that SVD is getting worse.

SVD often develops gradually, so it might not be diagnosed until later on when the disease has become well-developed and has caused damage to the brain. This means that we don’t know much about how and why SVD develops and progresses. There are currently limited ways to prevent SVD, and we don’t have any effective treatments to stop or slow the condition.

What is this research aiming to do?

This study is looking at:

  • How SVD progresses over time.
  • What makes it worse (or better).
  • Whether the subtle symptoms that patients experience have any relationship to the progression of the disease.

This project is part of a larger, ongoing study, called Mild Stroke Study 3, which is investigating why some people develop SVD while others don’t and who might be more at risk. As part of this larger study, participants have brain scans and a number of other tests at specific times after their stroke.

This study will invite a proportion of the participants involved in the Mild Stroke Study 3 to be followed more regularly over the first year after their stroke. Participants will have brain scans every six to eight weeks for up to a year. This will give the researchers more reliable information about how SVD causes damage in the brain, what symptoms it may be causing, and whether the subtle symptoms patients are experiencing are linked to the disease getting worse.

What difference could this research make?

The results of this study will help us to understand more about how SVD develops, which ultimately could help researchers to develop new ways to diagnose the disease at an earlier stage.

Knowing why and when damage happens will allow us to develop better ways of both preventing this damage happening in future patients, and treating damage that has occurred in patients who have already developed SVD.