White Matter Hyperintensities and Cognitive Impairment in Healthy and Pathological Aging: A Quantified Brain MRI Study

Alar Kaskikallio, Mira Karrasch, Juha Koikkalainen, Jyrki Lötjönen, Juha O. Rinne, Terhi Tuokkola, Riitta Parkkola, Petra Grönholm-Nyman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Brain changes involving the white matter (WM), often an indication of cerebrovascular pathology, are frequently seen in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer disease (AD). Few studies have examined possible cognitive domain-or group-specific cognitive effects of WM pathology in old age, MCI, and AD. Objective: Our purpose was to examine the relationship between WM hyperintensities (WMH), a typical marker for WM pathology, and cognitive functioning in healthy old age and pathological aging using quantified MRI data. Methods: We utilized multidomain neuropsychological data and quantified MRI data from a sample of 42 cognitively healthy older adults and 44 patients with MCI/AD (total n = 86). Results: After controlling for age and education, WMH in the temporal and parieto-occipital lobes was associated with impairments in processing speed and parieto-occipital pathology with verbal memory impairment in the whole sample. Additionally, temporal WMH was associated with impaired processing speed in the patient group specifically. Conclusions: WM pathology is strongly associated with impaired processing speed, and our results indicate that these impairments arise from WMH in the temporal and parieto-occipital regions. In MCI and AD patients with temporal WMH, processing speed impairments are especially prominent. The results of this study increase our knowledge of cognitive repercussions stemming from temporal and/or parieto-occipital WM pathology in healthy and pathological aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-307
Number of pages11
JournalDementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Alzheimer dementia
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Vascular cognitive impairment
  • White matter hyperintensity


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