The neuropathology and cerebrovascular mechanisms of dementia.
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The prevalence of dementia is increasing in our aging population at an alarming rate. Because of the heterogeneity of clinical presentation and complexity of disease neuropathology, dementia classifications remain controversial. Recently, the National Institute of Health (NIH) classified dementia into five major conditions namely, Alzheimer's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, and mixed dementias. While each of these dementing conditions has their unique pathologic signature, one common etiology shared among all these conditions is cerebrovascular dysfunction at some point during the disease process. The goal of this comprehensive review is to summarize the current findings in the field and address the important contributions of cerebrovascular, physiologic, and cellular alterations to cognitive impairment in these five NIH-classified human dementias. Specifically, evidence will be presented in support of small-vessel disease as an underlying neuropathologic hallmark of various dementias, while controversial findings will also be highlighted. Finally, the molecular mechanisms shared among all dementia types including hypoxia, oxidative stress, mitochondrial bioenergetics, neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and blood-brain barrier permeability responsible for disease etiology and progression will be discussed.Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism advance online publication, 15 July 2015; doi:10.1038/jcbfm.2015.164.