prof. dr. G.J. (Geert Jan) Biessels

Full Professor
prof. dr. G.J. (Geert Jan) Biessels
  • Neurologen

Research Programs



Vascular causes of cognitive impairment and dementia is my main area of research 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). Our particular focus is on novel imaging markers of VCI and the role of diabetes in dementia.


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 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 (to this end I established the Meta VCI Map consortium; ) and white matter network studies using diffusion MRI. With regard to diabetes, we have characterized trajectories and stages of cognitive dysfunction and established underlying structural brain changes with MRI. We recently completed two large multicentre RCTs on prevention of cognitive decline in patients with in type 2 diabetes.


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

Research line

Vascular Cognitive Impairment

Recent key publications

  1. Exalto,LG, Biessels,GJ, Karter,AJ, Huang,ES, Katon,WJ, Minkoff,JR, Whitmer,RA: Risk score for individualized prediction of ten year dementia risk in type 2 diabetes: the Diabetes and Aging study. Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinol 1: 2013

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Biessels GJ, Despa F Cognitive decline and dementia in diabetes mellitus: mechanisms and clinical implications. Nat Rev Endocrinol 14: 591-604, 2018

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.


Side Activities

GJ Biessels consults for and receives research support from Boehringer Ingelheim. All financial compensation for these services is transferred to his employer, the UMCU Utrecht.

Fellowship and Awards


1998: Dutch Association for Pharmacology, best thesis: Cerebral function in diabetes mellitus

1999: Neurodiab prize for preclinical science. Neurodiab is the official diabetic neuropathy study group of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD)

2015: Senior Investigator Award European Stroke Organisation

2015: Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh

Personal grants/awards

2004: Cognitive dysfunction in DM2: course of development and relation to vascular disease. (2004-2009), Career Development Grant from the Dutch Diabetes Foundation.

2005: Glucose, insulin and cerebrovascular disease: impact on cognition (2005-2009). Clinical Fellowship from Dutch Research Council (ZonMW).

2006: Vascular cognitive impairment: interactions between clinical features, brain imaging and memory (2006-2011). High Potential grant University of Utrecht, together with RPC Kessels

2010: ‘Diabetes and vascular damage: who is at risk for dementia?’, VIDI, from Dutch Research Council (ZonMW).

2010: Vascular cognitive impairment: the hidden burden of cerebrovascular disease, Clinical Established Investigator Grant, Nederlandse Hartstichting

2015: Senior Investigator Award of European Stroke Organisation (ESO) for VCI research program

2016: Microvascular function and brain networks: Keys to understanding the vascular burden in dementia. VICI, from Dutch Research Council (NWO).


Research Output (427)

The Effects of Intracranial Stenosis on Cerebral Perfusion and Cognitive Performance

Hilal Saima, Mutsaerts Henri J M M, Ferro Doeschka A, Petr Jan, Kuijf Hugo J, Biessels Geert Jan, Chen Christopher 2021, In: Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 79 , p. 1369-1380 12 p.

A Case of Sporadic Cerebral Small Vessel Disease in an Identical Twin

van den Brink Hilde, Weaver Nick A., Biessels Geert Jan 29 dec 2020, In: Case Reports in Neurology. 12 , p. 416-421 6 p.

Patient-specific fine-tuning of convolutional neural networks for follow-up lesion quantification

Jansen Mariëlle, Kuijf Hugo, Dhara Ashis K., Weaver Nick, Biessels Geert Jan, Strand Robin, Pluim JPW 1 nov 2020, In: Journal of Medical Imaging. 7 , p. 064003

Cerebral Perfusion and the Burden of Small Vessel Disease in Patients Referred to a Memory Clinic

Onkenhout Laurien, Appelmans Nadine, Kappelle L Jaap, Koek Dineke, Exalto Lieza, de Bresser Jeroen, Biessels Geert Jan, nov 2020, In: Cerebrovascular diseases (Basel, Switzerland). 49 , p. 481-486 6 p.

Vascular Risk Factors of Hippocampal Subfield Volumes in Persons without Dementia:The Medea 7T Study

Blom Kim, Koek Huiberdina L, Zwartbol Maarten H T, Ghaznawi Rashid, Kuijf Hugo J, Witkamp Theo D, Hendrikse Jeroen, Biessels Geert Jan, Geerlings Mirjam I, 5 sep 2020, In: Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 77 , p. 1223-1239 17 p.

Small vessel disease more than Alzheimer's disease determines diffusion MRI alterations in memory clinic patients

Finsterwalder Sofia, Vlegels Naomi, Gesierich Benno, Araque Caballero Miguel Á, Weaver Nick A, Franzmeier Nicolai, Georgakis Marios K, Konieczny Marek J, Koek Huiberdina L, Karch Celeste M, Graff-Radford Neill R, Salloway Stephen, Oh Hwamee, Allegri Ricardo F, Chhatwal Jasmeer P, Jessen Frank, Düzel Emrah, Dobisch Laura, Metzger Coraline, Peters Oliver, Incesoy Enise I, Priller Josef, Spruth Eike J, Schneider Anja, Fließbach Klaus, Buerger Katharina, Janowitz Daniel, Teipel Stefan J, Kilimann Ingo, Laske Christoph, Buchmann Martina, Heneka Michael T, Brosseron Frederic, Spottke Annika, Roy Nina, Ertl-Wagner Birgit, Scheffler Klaus, Seo Sang Won, Kim Yeshin, Na Duk L, Kim Hee Jin, Jang Hyemin, Ewers Michael, Levin Johannes, Schmidt Reinhold, Pasternak Ofer, Dichgans Martin, Biessels Geert Jan, Duering Marco, 18 aug 2020, In: Alzheimer's & Dementia. 16 , p. 1504-1514 11 p.

Tackling challenges in care of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias amid the COVID-19 pandemic, now and in the future

Mok Vincent C T, Pendlebury Sarah, Wong Adrian, Alladi Suvarna, Au Lisa, Bath Philip M, Biessels Geert Jan, Chen Christopher, Cordonnier Charlotte, Dichgans Martin, Dominguez Jacqueline, Gorelick Philip B, Kim SangYun, Kwok Timothy, Greenberg Steven M, Jia Jianping, Kalaria Rajesh, Kivipelto Miia, Naegandran Kandiah, Lam Linda C W, Lam Bonnie Yin Ka, Lee Allen T C, Markus Hugh S, O'Brien John, Pai Ming-Chyi, Pantoni Leonardo, Sachdev Perminder, Skoog Ingmar, Smith Eric E, Srikanth Velandai, Suh Guk-Hee, Wardlaw Joanna, Ko Ho, Black Sandra E, Scheltens Philip 12 aug 2020, In: Alzheimer's & Dementia. 16 , p. 1571-1581 11 p.

Absence of an infarct on MRI is not uncommon after clinical diagnosis of ischemic stroke

Aben Hugo P, Luijten Linda, Jansen Ben Pw, Visser-Meily Johanna Ma, Spikman Jacoba M, Biessels Geert Jan, de Kort Paul Lm, aug 2020, In: Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases. 29 , p. 1-8

Diabetes-specific dementia risk score (DSDRS) predicts cognitive performance in patients with type 2 diabetes at high cardio-renal risk

Verhagen Chloë, Janssen Jolien, Exalto Lieza G, van den Berg Esther, Johansen Odd Erik, Biessels Geert Jan 16 jul 2020, In: Journal of Diabetes and its Complications. 34

A first lead in dementia prevention in people with diabetes

Biessels Geert Jan jul 2020, In: Lancet Neurology. 19 , p. 559-560 2 p.

All research output

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