Association of white matter hyperintensity measurements on brain mr imaging with cognitive status, medial temporal atrophy, and cardiovascular risk factors

J. Appel, E. Potter, N. Bhatia, Q. Shen, W. Zhao, M. T. Greig, A. Raj, W. W. Barker, H. Potter, E. Schofield, Y. Wu, D. A. Loewenstein, Ranjan Duara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: White matter hyperintensities (WMHs) are frequently characterized as markers of cerebrovascular disease, whereas medial temporal atrophy (MTA) is a recognized marker of Alzheimer disease (AD). Our purpose was to test the reliability of a visual rating system (VRS) in evaluating WMHs and MTA and in distinguishing healthy from cognitively impaired subjects. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Subjects (n = 192) enrolled in the Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center were diagnosed with no cognitive impairment, nonamnestic mild cognitive impairment (na-MCI), amnestic MCI (a-MCI), or probable AD. The severity of WMHs was assessed on T2-weighted fluid-attenuated inversion recovery axial MR images, and the severity of MTA was evaluated on 1.5-mm-thick coronal MR images by using a computer-based visual rating system. Cardiovascular risk factor scores were calculated as the sum of 10 independent cardiovascular risk factors. RESULTS: WMH and MTA scores were greater in subjects with probable AD, relative to those with no cognitive impairment and na-MCI. MTA scores differentiated subjects with a-MCI from those with no cognitive impairment and na-MCI. The total WMH score was significantly related to MTA (r = 0.39; P < .001) but not to cardiovascular risk factor scores (r = 0.07; P = not significant). The overall correct classification rate of probable AD versus no cognitive impairment by using MTA scores was 81.8%, improving to 86.5% when combined with WMH scores. CONCLUSIONS: Both MTA and WMH scores distinguished subjects with no cognitive impairment and probable AD. Combining MTA and WMH scores improved the correct classification rate, whereas WMH scores were significantly related to MTA scores, but not to cardiovascular risk factor scores. This finding suggests that among subjects with a-MCI and probable AD, WMHs on MR images are primarily associated with neurodegenerative disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1870-1876
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology

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