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

Full Professor

  • Neurologen

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

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

  • 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 (412)

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

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.

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. 104979

A first lead in dementia prevention in people with diabetes

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

Type 2 diabetes and cognitive dysfunction-towards effective management of both comorbidities

Srikanth Velandai, Sinclair Alan J, Hill-Briggs Felicia, Moran Chris, Biessels Geert Jan jun 2020, In: The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 8 , p. 535-545 11 p.

Cardiac and respiration-induced brain deformations in humans quantified with high-field MRI

Sloots Jacob-Jan, Biessels Geert Jan, Zwanenburg Jaco J M 15 apr 2020, In: NeuroImage. 210 11 p.

Microbleeds colocalize with enlarged juxtacortical perivascular spaces in amnestic mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer's disease:A 7 Tesla MRI study

Bouvy Willem H, van Veluw Susanne J, Kuijf Hugo J, Zwanenburg Jaco Jm, Kappelle Jaap L, Luijten Peter R, Koek Huiberdina L, Geerlings Mirjam I, Biessels Geert J, 1 apr 2020, In: Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. 40 , p. 739-746 8 p.

Effect of Fixed-Density Thresholding on Structural Brain Networks:A Demonstration in Cerebral Small Vessel Disease

de Brito Robalo Bruno M, Vlegels Naomi, Meier Jil, Leemans Alexander, Biessels Geert Jan, Reijmer Yael D, apr 2020, In: Brain Connectivity. 10 , p. 121-133 13 p.

Author response: Clinical relevance of acute cerebral microinfarct in vascular cognitive impairment

Ferro Doeschka A, van den Brink Hilde, Exalto Lieza G, Boomsma Jooske M F, Barkhof Frederik, Prins Niels D, van der Flier Wiesje M, Biessels Geert Jan 18 feb 2020, In: Neurology. 94 , p. 330

Cerebral blood flow and cognitive functioning in patients with disorders along the heart–brain axis:Cerebral blood flow and the heart–brain axis

Leeuwis Anna E., Hooghiemstra Astrid M., Bron Esther E., Kuipers Sanne, Oudeman Eline A., Kalay Tugba, Brunner-La Rocca Hans Peter, Kappelle L. Jaap, van Oostenbrugge Robert J., Greving Jacoba P., Niessen Wiro J., van Buchem Mark A., van Osch Matthias J.P., van Rossum Albert C., Prins Niels D., Biessels Geert Jan, Barkhof Frederik, van der Flier Wiesje M., 1 jan 2020, In: Alzheimer's and Dementia: Translational Research and Clinical Interventions. 6 , p. e12034

All Research Output (412)