Vascular brain lesions, brain atrophy, and cognitive decline. The Second Manifestations of ARTerial disease—Magnetic Resonance (SMART-MR) study

Minke Kooistra, Mirjam I Geerlings, Yolanda van der Graaf, Willem P T M Mali, Koen L Vincken, L Jaap Kappelle, Majon Muller, Geert Jan Biessels
Neurobiology of Aging 2014, 35 (1): 35-41
We examined the association between brain atrophy and vascular brain lesions (i.e., white matter lesions [WMLs] or brain infarcts), alone or in combination, with decline in memory and executive functioning over 4 years of follow-up in 448 patients (57 ± 9.5 years) with symptomatic atherosclerotic disease from the Second Manifestations of ARTerial disease--Magnetic Resonance SMART-MR study. Automated brain segmentation was used to quantify volumes of total brain, ventricles, cortical gray matter, and WMLs on 1.5-T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Brain infarcts were rated visually. WML volume was associated with significant decline in z score of executive functioning. No independent associations between MRI measures and memory decline were found. Significant declines in z scores of memory performance and of executive functioning were observed in patients with a combination of severe atrophy (upper quartile) and most vascular brain lesions (upper quartile) compared with those with minimal atrophy (lowest quartile) and fewest vascular brain lesions (lowest quartile). Our findings suggest that in patients with symptomatic atherosclerotic disease, the combination of brain atrophy and WMLs or brain infarcts accelerates cognitive decline over 4 years.

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