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Research project

Heart Brain Connection (HBC)

Status: Ongoing project

This multi-center research project focuses on assessing and understanding the contribution of hemodynamic changes to vascular cognitive impairment (VCI).

What we do

About our project

Heart-Brain Connection

The Heart-Brain Connection (HBC) is a multicenter study that aims to investigate the hypothesis that impaired hemodynamic status of both heart and brain is an important cause of vascular cognitive impairment offering promising opportunities for treatment. A wide range of imaging and non-imaging parameters of cardiovascular, hemodynamic, and cognitive functioning is assessed in patients with vascular cognitive impairment, heart failure, carotid occlusion disease, and healthy controls. More information on the study can be found here: http://www.heart-brain.nl/. 


Data for the Heart-Brain Connection study are centrally stored in platforms hosted by Health-RI. XNAT is used for storing imaging data (heart and brain MRI scans) and OpenClinica for storing non-imaging data (clinical and cognitive parameters). Imaging data are processed by researchers at LUMC and Erasmus MC to extract parameters of heart and brain structure and function. Image processing results are centrally stored on XNAT next to the raw image data. The researchers implemented a quality assessment protocol to ensure consistency between the data stored in the two platforms.


Our research focus

Image analysis platform

Our team developed an image analysis platform that is used in multi-center imaging studies, such as HBC, and in large population-based studies. This platform consists of facilities for storing image data, a flexible platform for running analysis pipelines on these images to produce imaging biomarkers, and a viewer to inspect intermediate and final results (see figure). More details are provided at: https://www.bbmri.nl/services/research-tools/image-analysis-platform

Machine learning

The second phase of the project, Heart Brain Connection Crossroads (HBCx), started in September 2019. In this phase we will maintain and update the image analysis platform for several related studies. In addition, we aim to develop markers of brain injury and prognostic tools for vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) based on volumetric and vascular brain MRI by using an innovative approach based on advanced data-driven machine learning techniques.


Funds & Grants

MJ Daemen, GJ Biessels, ..., WJ Niessen, EE Bron, Heart-Brain Connection Crossroads (HBCx), Cardiovasculair Onderzoek Nederland (CVON), 2019

MJ Daemen, M van Buchem, ..., WJ Niessen, CVON Heart Brain Connection (HBC), Cardiovasculair Onderzoek Nederland (CVON), 2012


Department of epidemiology

Outside Erasmus MC

Amsterdam UMC, locatie AMC

Amsterdam UMC, locatie Vumc

UMC Utrecht

LUMC, Leiden

MUMC+, Maastricht



The missing link in the pathophysiology of vascular cognitive impairment: design of the Heart–Brain Study, A.M. Hooghiemstra, A.S. Bertens, A.E. Leeuwis, E.E. Bron, M.L. Bots, H.P. Brunner-La Rocca, A.J.M. de Craen, R.J. van der Geest, J.P. Greving, L.J. Kappelle, W.J. Niessen, R. van Oostenbrugge, M.J. van Osch, A. de Roos, A.C. van Rossum, G.J. Biessels, M.A. van Buchem, M.J. Daemen, W.M. van der Flier, on behalf of the Heart-Brain Consortium,  https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/480738

Our team

Esther Bron

Hakim Achterberg

Adriaan Versteeg

Wiro Niessen