Professor Joanna Wardlaw

Chair of Applied Neuroimaging; Head of Neuroimaging Sciences and Edinburgh Imaging; Row Fogo Centre Director


  • Internationally recognised for work on the pathophysiology of cerebral small vessel disease and brain ageing, and the pathophysiology and treatment of acute ischaemic stroke especially thrombolytic therapy, and the use of imaging to diagnose acute stroke.
  • Set up the Brain Research Imaging Centre, Edinburgh in 1997.
  • Set up the Scotland-wide imaging research network in 2007 – Scottish Imaging Network, A Platform for Scientific Excellence (SINAPSE,
  • Has provided imaging and related expertise to several multi-centre randomised clinical trials and is imaging lead for several other initiatives, such as the MRC-funded Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE).
  • Initiated online distance learning MScs in Neuroimaging and Imaging.
  • Led a UK-wide initiative to establish standards for management of incidental findings during research imaging.
  • With colleagues, through the Centres of Excellence in Neurodegeneration, encouraged the development of standards for imaging of cerebral small vessel disease.
  • Has published over 400 papers and been awarded several prizes and honorary fellowships in recognition of her work.

Research summary

Professor Wardlaw works for the University of Edinburgh and the NHS Lothian. She is an expert in brain scanning. Her research focuses on trying to prevent stroke, to treat stroke, to find better ways of diagnosing stroke, and to find out more about the causes of different types of stroke.

Because she specialises in brain scanning, much of Professor Wardlaw's research has used different types of brain scanning to answer these questions. Over the years, she has contributed to research that has led to faster scanning of patients when they come to hospital after a TIA or stroke, to clot-busting treatments for stroke, and now is researching ways of stopping small strokes that can happen without the patient noticing but build up and cause long-term damage to thinking skills. These studies have changed guidelines for how to treat patients with stroke all over the world.

Research aims and interests

  • Aetiology, pathogenesis and treatment of cerebral small vessel disease.
  • Imaging the brain parenchyma and arteries to improve understanding of pathogenesis and treatment mechanisms in acute ischaemic stroke using multiple modalities.
  • Assessment of treatments for acute ischaemic stroke including thrombolysis, blood pressure, and cooling to prevent complications of stroke.
  • Developing and improving ways of imaging non-invasively the cerebral arteries.
  • Integration of data derived from clinical with imaging examinations in stroke – the interactions between them.
  • Practical and cost effective ways of applying imaging tools in stroke.
  • Methodology of the assessment of the accuracy of diagnostic tests.
  • Systematic reviews of diagnostic tests.
  • Practical ways of measuring the brain using imaging.
  • Age-related changes in the brain – the role of the blood-brain barrier, small vessel changes, atrophy.
  • Large scale studies of observer reliability using internet technology.
  • Teaching through internet mechanisms (elearning).
  • A variety of smaller projects on the use of imaging to improve understanding of disease pathophysiology in the nervous system.

View all 913 publications on Research Explorer