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

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 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


Side Activities

GJ Biessels has consulted for and received research support from Boehringer Ingelheim.  He has also consulted for Eli Lilly and Nestle HealthScience. All financial compensation for these services is transferred to his employer, the UMC 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 (468)

Multimodal tract-based MRI metrics outperform whole brain markers in determining cognitive impact of small vessel disease-related brain injury

De Luca Alberto, Kuijf Hugo, Exalto Lieza, Thiebaut de Schotten Michel, Biessels Geert-Jan, Sep 2022, In: Brain structure & function. 227 , p. 2553-2567 15 p.

Brain Structure Among Middle-aged and Older Adults With Long-standing Type 1 Diabetes in the DCCT/EDIC Study

Jacobson Alan M, Braffett Barbara H, Erus Guray, Ryan Christopher M, Biessels Geert J, Luchsinger José A, Bebu Ionut, Gubitosi-Klug Rose A, Desiderio Lisa, Lorenzi Gayle M, Trapani Victoria R, Lachin John M, Bryan R Nick, Habes Mohamad, Nasrallah Ilya M, 1 Aug 2022, In: Diabetes Care. 45 , p. 1779-1787 9 p.

Cross-site harmonization of multi-shell diffusion MRI measures based on rotational invariant spherical harmonics (RISH)

De Luca Alberto, Karayumak Suheyla Cetin, Leemans Alexander, Rathi Yogesh, Swinnen Stephan, Gooijers Jolien, Clauwaert Amanda, Bahr Roald, Sandmo Stian Bahr, Sochen Nir, Kaufmann David, Muehlmann Marc, Biessels Geert-Jan, Koerte Inga, Pasternak Ofer 3 Jul 2022, In: NeuroImage. 259 , p. 1-12

Automatic quantification of perivascular spaces in T2-weighted images at 7 T MRI

Verbeek-Spijkerman Jolanda, Zwanenburg J. J.M., Bouvy W. H., Geerlings M. I., Biessels G. J., Hendrikse J., Luijten P. R., Kuijf H. J. 13 Apr 2022, In: Cerebral Circulation - Cognition and Behavior. 3 , p. 1-9

Impact of thresholding on the consistency and sensitivity of diffusion MRI-based brain networks in patients with cerebral small vessel disease

De Brito Robalo Bruno M, Vlegels Naomi, Leemans Alexander, Reijmer Yael D, Biessels Geert Jan 12 Apr 2022, In: Brain and Behavior. 12 , p. 1-16

New insights into the genetic etiology of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias

Bellenguez Céline, Küçükali Fahri, Jansen Iris E, Kleineidam Luca, Moreno-Grau Sonia, Amin Najaf, Naj Adam C, Campos-Martin Rafael, Grenier-Boley Benjamin, Andrade Victor, Holmans Peter A, Boland Anne, Damotte Vincent, van der Lee Sven J, Costa Marcos R, Kuulasmaa Teemu, Yang Qiong, de Rojas Itziar, Bis Joshua C, Yaqub Amber, Prokic Ivana, Chapuis Julien, Ahmad Shahzad, Giedraitis Vilmantas, Aarsland Dag, Garcia-Gonzalez Pablo, Abdelnour Carla, Alarcón-Martín Emilio, Alcolea Daniel, Alegret Montserrat, Alvarez Ignacio, Álvarez Victoria, Armstrong Nicola J, Tsolaki Anthoula, Antúnez Carmen, Appollonio Ildebrando, Arcaro Marina, Archetti Silvana, Pastor Alfonso Arias, Arosio Beatrice, Athanasiu Lavinia, Bailly Henri, Banaj Nerisa, Baquero Miquel, Barral Sandra, Beiser Alexa, de Witte Lot D, Ferrari Raffaele, Biessels Geert Jan, Snijders Gijsje J L, Apr 2022, In: Nature Genetics. 54 , p. 412-436 25 p.

A cluster of blood-based protein biomarkers reflecting coagulation relates to the burden of cerebral small vessel disease

Kuipers Sanne, Overmars L Malin, van Es Bram, de Bresser Jeroen, Bron Esther E, Hoefer Imo E, Kappelle L Jaap, Teunissen Charlotte E, Biessels Geert Jan, Haitjema Saskia 27 Jan 2022, In: Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. 42 , p. 1282-1293 12 p.

Neuropsychiatric Symptoms as Predictor of Poor Clinical Outcome in Patients With Vascular Cognitive Impairment

Sep Yoni C P, Leeuwis Anna E, Exalto Lieza G, Boomsma Jooske M, Prins Niels D, Verwer Jurre H, Scheltens Philip, van der Flier Wiesje M, Biessels Geert Jan, 2 Jan 2022, In: The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 30 , p. 813-824 12 p.

Dynamic brain ADC variations over the cardiac cycle and their relation to tissue strain assessed with DENSE at high-field MRI

Sloots Jacob-Jan, Froeling Martijn, Biessels Geert Jan, Zwanenburg Jaco J M 2022, In: Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. 88 , p. 266-279 14 p.

Network impact score is an independent predictor of post-stroke cognitive impairment:A multicenter cohort study in 2341 patients with acute ischemic stroke

Biesbroek J Matthijs, Weaver Nick A, Aben Hugo P, Kuijf Hugo J, Abrigo Jill, Bae Hee-Joon, Barbay Mélanie, Best Jonathan G, Bordet Régis, Chappell Francesca M, Chen Christopher P L H, Dondaine Thibaut, van der Giessen Ruben S, Godefroy Olivier, Gyanwali Bibek, Hamilton Olivia K L, Hilal Saima, Huenges Wajer Irene M C, Kang Yeonwook, Kappelle L Jaap, Kim Beom Joon, Köhler Sebastian, de Kort Paul L M, Koudstaal Peter J, Kuchcinski Gregory, Lam Bonnie Y K, Lee Byung-Chul, Lee Keon-Joo, Lim Jae-Sung, Lopes Renaud, Makin Stephen D J, Mendyk Anne-Marie, Mok Vincent C T, Oh Mi Sun, van Oostenbrugge Robert J, Roussel Martine, Shi Lin, Staals Julie, Valdés-Hernández Maria Del C, Venketasubramanian Narayanaswamy, Verhey Frans R J, Wardlaw Joanna M, Werring David J, Xin Xu, Yu Kyung-Ho, van Zandvoort Martine J E, Zhao Lei, Biessels Geert Jan 2022, In: NeuroImage. Clinical. 34 , p. 1-7

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