Subcortical lacunes are associated with executive dysfunction in cognitively normal elderly

Catherine L. Carey, Joel H. Kramer, S. Andrew Josephson, Dan M Mungas, Bruce R Reed, Norbert Schuff, Michael W. Weiner, Helena C. Chui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE - The relationship between subcortical ischemic vascular disease (SIVD) and cognition in normal elderly is unclear, in part because of methodological inconsistencies across studies. To clarify this relationship, the current study investigated a well characterized cognitively normal elderly sample (≥55 years) with quantitative MRI and psychometrically robust neuropsychological measures within a multivariate model. Converging evidence suggests that SIVD selectively impairs frontal-executive tasks by disrupting frontal-subcortical circuits. We therefore hypothesized that MRI markers of SIVD would be selectively associated with worse executive functioning. METHODS - We studied 94 participants who were cognitively and functionally normal. Volumetric measures of white matter signal hyperintensity (WMH), subcortical lacunes, hippocampal volume, and cortical gray matter were obtained to predict performance on composite measures of executive functioning and episodic memory. RESULTS - Hierarchical regression demonstrated that after controlling for demographic variables, MMSE, and total intracranial volume, the total number of subcortical lacunes was the only significant predictor, with a greater number of lacunes associated with poorer executive performance. Hippocampal volume best predicted episodic memory performance. CONCLUSIONS - Results suggest that SIVD in the form of silent lacunes corresponds to poorer executive functioning even in otherwise normal elderly, which is consistent with the hypothesis that SIVD preferentially disrupts frontal-subcortical circuits. The clinical importance of these findings is highlighted by the fact that 33% of the normal elderly participants in this study had lacunar infarcts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-402
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Cerebral lacunes
  • Cognition
  • Elderly
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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