Profile photo Geert Jan Biessels

Geert Jan Biessels

Full Professor

Strategic program(s):


Vascular causes of cognitive impairment and dementia is my main area of interest. At the UMC Brain Center of the University Medical Centre Utrecht, the Netherlands, I have established a multidisciplinary research program on vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) and small vessel diseases (SVDs). Our particular focus is on novel imaging markers of VCI and SVDs, that can improve diagnosis and support development of treatment. We implement the latest insights in our VCI clinic.


Using the unique properties of high field 7T-MRI we have been able – for the first time -to detect cerebral microinfarcts in vivo and we have subsequently translated the technique to 3T-MRI, and published standards on microinfarct detection in The Lancet Neurology. Currently we 1) explore small vessel disease in VCI at the level of the small vessels themselves, through novel measures of small vessel structure and function at 7T MRI, thus getting to the core disease processes and 2) improve understanding of the functional impact of vascular lesions through large multicenter lesion symptom mapping studies (through the META VCI MAP consortium; ; first results in The Lancet Neurology, 2021) and white matter network studies using diffusion MRI.


Another topic of interest is cognitive impairment in relation to diabetes. We have characterized trajectories and stages of cognitive dysfunction and established underlying structural brain changes with MRI. I served as PI of two large multicentre RCTs on prevention of cognitive decline in patients with in type 2 diabetes. I was also involved in clinical guidelines ( ). From 2016, I serve as a consultant on the brain MRI and cognition outcomes of the  Diabetes Control & Complications Trial (DCCT)/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications Study (EDIC) Cohort”, and several other NIH funded programs.


I work with international collaborators in Munich, Edinburgh, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Singapore and participate in the multinational EU-funded research programs SVDs@target and RECOGNISED. In 2016 I was appointed Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh and in 2015 I received the senior investigator award of the European Stroke Organisation (ESO) in recognition of my work.


Research line

Vascular Cognitive Impairment

Recent key publications

  1. van Veluw,SJ, Zwanenburg,JJ, Engelen-Lee,J, Spliet,WG, Hendrikse,J, Luijten,PR, Biessels,GJ: In vivo detection of cerebral cortical microinfarcts with high-resolution 7T MRI. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab 33:322-329, 2013
  2. Wardlaw,JM, Smith,EE, Biessels,GJ, …., Dichgans,M: Neuroimaging standards for research into small vessel disease and its contribution to ageing and neurodegeneration. Lancet Neurol 12:822-838, 2013
  3. Smith EE, Saposnik G, Biessels GJ…. Seshadri S; Prevention of Stroke in Patients With Silent Cerebrovascular Disease: A Scientific Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke 2017 Feb;48(2):e44-e71.
  4. Detection, risk factors, and functional consequences of cerebral microinfarcts. van Veluw SJ, Shih AY, Smith EE, Chen C, Schneider JA, Wardlaw JM, Greenberg SM, Biessels GJ. Lancet Neurol. 2017 Sep;16(9):730-740.
  5. Biessels GJ, Despa F Cognitive decline and dementia in diabetes mellitus: mechanisms and clinical implications. Nat Rev Endocrinol 14: 591-604, 2018
  6. Geurts LJ, Zwanenburg JJM, Klijn CJM, Luijten PR, Biessels GJ. Higher Pulsatility in Cerebral Perforating Arteries in Patients With Small Vessel Disease Related Stroke, a 7T MRI Study. Stroke 2018: STROKEAHA118022516
  7. Biessels GJ, Verhagen C, Janssen J, van den Berg E, Zinman B, Rosenstock J, George JT, Passera A, Schnaidt S, Johansen OE, investigators C. Effect of Linagliptin on Cognitive Performance in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiorenal Comorbidities: The CARMELINA Randomized Trial. Diabetes Care 2019.
  8. Weaver NA, Zhao L, Biesbroek JM, Kuijf HJ, Aben HP, Bae HJ, Caballero MAA, Chappell FM, Chen C, Dichgans M, Duering M, Georgakis MK, van der Giessen RS, Gyanwali B, Hamilton OKL, Hilal S, Vom Hofe EM, de Kort PLM, Koudstaal PJ, Lam BYK, Lim JS, Makin SDJ, Mok VCT, Shi L, Valdes Hernandez MC, Venketasubramanian N, Wardlaw JM, Wollenweber FA, Wong A, Xin X, Meta VCI Map consortium, Biessels GJ. The Meta VCI Map consortium for meta-analyses on strategic lesion locations for vascular cognitive impairment using lesion-symptom mapping: Design and multicenter pilot study. Alzheimers Dement (Amst) 2019; 11: 310-26.
  9. Biessels GJ, Nobili F, Teunissen CE, Simó R, Scheltens P. Understanding multifactorial brain changes in type 2 diabetes: a biomarker perspective. Lancet Neurol. 2020 Aug;19(8):699-710.
  1. Weaver NA, Kuijf, HJ, … Biessels GJ Strategic infarct locations for post-stroke cognitive impairment: a pooled analysis of individual patient data from 12 acute ischaemic stroke cohorts , Lancet Neurol 20: 448-459 2021


Research groups

Vascular cognitive impairment (VCI)

Research aim

Our research focuses on developing and validating novel MRI markers for vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) and cerebral small vessel diseases (SVD) that can help to improve diagnosis and prognostication and support personalized treatment
Go to group

Intracranial vasculopathies

Research aim

Our research focusses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of stroke and intracranial vasculopathies, including cerebral small vessel disease and intracranial aneurysms, with the ultimate goal to improve treatment strategies and prognosis.
Go to group

Recent publications

Detectability and accuracy of computational measurements of in-silico and physical representations of enlarged perivascular spaces from magnetic resonance images Roberto Duarte Coello, Maria Del C Valdés Hernández, Jaco J M Zwanenburg, Moniek van der Velden, Hugo J Kuijf, Alberto De Luca, José Bernal Moyano, Lucia Ballerini, Francesca M Chappell, Rosalind Brown, Geert Jan Biessels, Joanna M Wardlaw
Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 2024, vol. 403
Is it time for Heart-Brain clinics? Charlotte M Nijskens, Elias G Thomas, Hanneke F M Rhodius-Meester, Mat J A P Daemen, Geert Jan Biessels, M Louis Handoko, Majon Muller
Clinical cardiology, 2024, vol. 47
Small vessel disease burden and functional brain connectivity in mild cognitive impairment Sofia Marcolini, Jaime D Mondragón, Esther E Bron, Geert J Biessels, Jurgen A H R Claassen, Janne M Papma, Huub Middelkoop, Rudi A J O Dierckx, Ronald J H Borra, Inez H G B Ramakers, Wiesje M van der Flier, Natasha M Maurits, Peter P De Deyn
Cerebral Circulation - Cognition and Behavior, 2024, vol. 6
Cognitive Impairment in Patients With Cardiac Disease Astrid C van Nieuwkerk, Ronak Delewi, Frank J Wolters, Majon Muller, Mat Daemen, Geert Jan Biessels,
Stroke, 2023, vol. 54, p.2181-2191
Spatial distributions of white matter hyperintensities on brain MRI Mirthe Coenen, Geert Jan Biessels, Charles DeCarli, Evan F Fletcher, Pauline M Maillard, Frederik Barkhof, Josephine Barnes, Thomas Benke, Jooske M F Boomsma, Christopher P L H Chen, Peter Dal-Bianco, Anna Dewenter, Marco Duering, Christian Enzinger, Michael Ewers, Lieza G Exalto, Nicolai Franzmeier, Onno Groeneveld, Saima Hilal, Edith Hofer, Huiberdina L Koek, Andrea B Maier, Cheryl R McCreary, Janne M Papma, Ross W Paterson, Yolande A L Pijnenburg, Anna Rubinski, Reinhold Schmidt, Jonathan M Schott, Catherine F Slattery, Eric E Smith, Carole H Sudre, Rebecca M E Steketee, Esther van den Berg, Wiesje M van der Flier, Narayanaswamy Venketasubramanian, Meike W Vernooij, Frank J Wolters, Xu Xin, J Matthijs Biesbroek, Hugo J Kuijf,
NeuroImage. Clinical, 2023, vol. 40, p.103547
Twenty-four hour blood pressure variability and the prevalence and the progression of cerebral white matter hyperintensities Naomi Lp Starmans, Frank J Wolters, Annebet E Leeuwis, Esther E Bron, Hans-Peter Brunner La Rocca, Julie Staals, Geert Jan Biessels, L Jaap Kappelle,
Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 2023, vol. 43, p.801-811

Fellowships & Awards

2015: Senior Investigator Award European Stroke Organisation (ESO)

2011: Discovering declarative memory: A multimodal imaging approach in patients with ischemic stroke”,