Cognitive correlates of white matter lesion load and brain atrophy

Chuanhui Dong, Nooshin Nabizadeh, Michelle Caunca, Ying Kuen Cheung, Tatjana Rundek, Mitchell S V Elkind, Charles DeCarli, Ralph L. Sacco, Yaakov Stern, Clinton B. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Objective: We investigated white matter lesion load and global and regional brain volumes in relation to domain-specific cognitive performance in the stroke-free Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS) population. Methods: We quantified white matter hyperintensity volume (WMHV), total cerebral volume (TCV), and total lateral ventricular (TLV) volume, as well as hippocampal and cortical gray matter (GM) lobar volumes in a subgroup. We used general linear models to examine MRI markers in relation to domain-specific cognitive performance, adjusting for key covariates. Results: MRI and cognitive data were available for 1,163 participants (mean age 70 ± 9 years; 60% women; 66% Hispanic, 17% black, 15% white). Across the entire sample, those with greater WMHV had worse processing speed. Those with larger TLV volume did worse on episodic memory, processing speed, and semantic memory tasks, and TCV did not explain domain-specific variability in cognitive performance independent of other measures. Age was an effect modifier, and stratified analysis showed that TCV and WMHV explained variability in some domains above age 70. Smaller hippocampal volume was associated with worse performance across domains, even after adjusting for APOE ε4 and vascular risk factors, whereas smaller frontal lobe volumes were only associated with worse executive function. Conclusions: In this racially/ethnically diverse, community-based sample, white matter lesion load was inversely associated with cognitive performance, independent of brain atrophy. Lateral ventricular, hippocampal, and lobar GM volumes explained domain-specific variability in cognitive performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-449
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 4 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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