UNIVRSE consortium website logo

Welcome to the official website of the UNIVRSE consortium!

UNIVRSE consortium logo


The Uniform Neuro-Imaging of Virchow-Robin Spaces Enlargement (UNIVRSE) Consortium is a global initiative that was established to overcome the current limitations in VRS research. The cohorts of the UNIVRSE consortium have collected tens of thousands of MRI scans, for which ratings are performed using a validated protocol developed by the two founding members. Working groups focus on specific topics such as risk factors, cognition, stroke, and genetics.

The UNIVRSE consortium brings together:


16.000 subjects

25.000 MRI scans

13 (sub)cohorts

5 countries

16 investigators



UNIVRSE | Members

Rotterdam Study - founding member:















































































































Kamran Ikram, MD, PhD

Saima Hilal, MBBS, MPH

Cornelia van Duijn, PhD

Sven van der Lee, MD

Charles DeCarli, MD

Sudha Seshadri, MD

Hans Grabe
Reinhold Schmidt
Arfan Ikram
Meike Vernooij
Hieab Adams

Arfan Ikram, MD, PhD


Meike Vernooij, MD, PhD

Hieab Adams, MSc

Reinhold Schmidt, MD

Hans Grabe, MD

Austrian Stroke Prevention Study (ASPS) - founding member:

Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP):

Epidemiology of Dementia in Singapore (EDIS):

Erasmus Rucphen Family (ERF) Study:

Framingham Heart Study (FHS):

Epidemiological Prevention study Zoetermeer (EPOZ):

Mohamad Habes, PhD

UNIVRSE | Projects

The UNIVRSE Consortium design

In preparation

Profile of the UNIVRSE consortium, overview of its current members, and a brief description of its objectives and aims. Reference: Adams HH, et al. "The Uniform Neuro-Imaging of Virchow-Robin Spaces Enlargement (UNIVRSE) Consortium" In preparation.

Rating method for dilated VRS

Download manuscript

In 2010, the Rotterdam Study and Austrian Stroke Prevention Study entered a collaboration with the goal to develop a robust VRS rating method that is reliable, incorporates relevant brain regions and can be easily applied by other researchers. This method is now used in the UNIVRSE consortium.


Reference: Adams HH, et al. "Rating Method for Dilated Virchow–Robin Spaces on Magnetic Resonance Imaging." Stroke 44.6 (2013): 1732-1735.

Determinants of dilated VRS

Enlargement of VRS could reflect various pathologies, including cerebral amyloid angiopathy and cerebral small vessel disease. It is hypothesized that underlying pathology might differ according to location. We investigated risk factors for enlarged VRS in the UNIVRSE consortium.


Reference: Adams HH, et al. "Risk factors of Virchow-Robin Spaces enlargement: the UNIVRSE Consortium" Abstract in press. Manuscript in preparation.

Cognition and dementia

Work in progress

The presence of enlarged VRS is accompanied by the presence of pathology in the brain,  and could therefore potentially indicate beginning cognitive deterioration. Given the nature of VRS, it is possible that it is already associated with the first signs of impaired cognitive function, even before other MRI markers.

Common and rare genetics

Work in progress

The genetics of enlarged VRS remains largely unknown. In a large sample of both unrelated and related persons, we aim to determine the heritability of VRS enlargement and putative genes associated with this MRI marker.

Inquiries or collaborations
Are you interested in collaborating with us or would you like to know more about our projects? Please send all enquiries and queries to Dr. M.A. Ikram, Head of Neuro-Epidemiology, Erasmus MC.
We encourage other studies to use the VRS rating protocol as described in Adams et al. (2013) and available on our website, to facilitate potential joint projects and pooling of data. Additional information on the implementation of the method can be provided.
Our interest goes out to increasing the diversity in our consortium, with equal opportunities for smaller neuroimaging studies and those with non-European participants. Please send a description of the cohort and recent work of the group.
For collaborations, a short proposal is required. Please note that raw participant data is generally not shared due to informed consent, but on-site access can be provided. We are open to facilitate visits from researchers to one of our participating centers. Please contact us with the necessary information about your project and intended visiting dates.

Correspondence: M.A. Ikram, MD, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus MC University Medical Center.

Address: Dr. Molewaterplein 50, 3015 GE, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Telephone number: +31 10 70 43930.

Fax number: +31 10 70 43489

Email: m.a.ikram [at] erasmusmc.nl.




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