Deep versus periventricular white matter lesions and cognitive function in a community sample of middle-aged participants

Juan José Soriano-Raya, Júlia Miralbell, Elena López-Cancio, Núria Bargalló, Juan Francisco Arenillas, Maite Barrios, Cynthia Cáceres, Pere Toran, Maite Alzamora, Antoni Dávalos, Maria Mataró

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34 Citations (Scopus)


The association of cerebral white matter lesions (WMLs) with cognitive status is not well understood in middle-aged individuals. Our aim was to determine the specific contribution of periventricular hyperintensities (PVHs) and deep white matter hyperintensities (DWMHs) to cognitive function in a community sample of asymptomatic participants aged 50 to 65 years. One hundred stroke-and dementia-free adults completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery and brain MRI protocol. Participants were classified according to PVH and DWMH scores (Fazekas scale). We dichotomized our sample into low grade WMLs (participants without or with mild lesions) and high grade WMLs (participants with moderate or severe lesions). Analyses were performed separately in PVH and DWMH groups. High grade DWMHs were associated with significantly lower scores in executive functioning (-'0.45 standard deviations [SD]), attention (-'0.42 SD), verbal fluency (-'0.68 SD), visual memory (-'0.52 SD), visuospatial skills (-'0.79 SD), and psychomotor speed (-'0.46 SD). Further analyses revealed that high grade DWMHs were also associated with a three-to fourfold increased risk of impaired scores (i.e.,<1.5 SD) in executive functioning, verbal fluency, visuospatial skills, and psychomotor speed. Our findings suggest that only DWMHs, not PVHs, are related to diminished cognitive function in middle-aged individuals. © 2012 The International Neuropsychological Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)874-885
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2012


  • Cognition disorders
  • Executive function
  • Leukoencephalopathies
  • MRI
  • Neuropsychology
  • Visuospatial skills


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