White Matter Lesions in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Idiopathic Parkinson's Disease: Multimodal Advanced MRI and Cognitive Associations

Swati Rane, Julia Owen, Daniel S Hippe, Brenna Cholerton, Cyrus P Zabetian, Tom Montine, Thomas J Grabowski
Journal of Neuroimaging: Official Journal of the American Society of Neuroimaging 2020 September 16
Cerebrovascular disease is a common comorbidity in older adults, typically assessed in terms of white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) on MRI. While it is well known that WMHs exacerbate cognitive symptoms, the exact relation of WMHs with cognitive performance and other degenerative diseases is unknown. Furthermore, based on location, WMHs are often classified into periventricular and deep WMHs and are believed to have different pathological origins. Whether the two types of WMHs influence cognition differently is unclear. Using regression models, we assessed the independent association of these two types of WMHs with cognitive performance in two separate studies focused on distinct degenerative diseases, early Alzheimer's (mild cognitive impairment), and Parkinson's disease. We further tested if the two types of WMHs were differentially associated with reduced cortical cerebral blood flow (CBF) as measured by arterial spin labeling and increased mean diffusivity (MD, a marker of tissue injury) as measured by diffusion imaging. Our approach revealed that both deep and periventricular WMHs were associated with poor performance on tests of global cognition (Montreal cognitive Assessment, MoCA), task processing (Trail making test), and category fluency in the study of mild cognitive impairment. They were associated with poor performance in global cognition (MoCA) and category fluency in the Parkinson's disease study. Of note, more associations were detected between cognitive performance and deep WMHs than between cognitive performance and periventricular WMHs. Mechanistically, both deep and periventricular WMHs were associated with increased MD. Both deep and periventricular WMHs were also associated with reduced CBF in the gray matter.

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