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White matter hyperintensities across the adult lifespan: relation to age, Aβ load, and cognition

Abstract : Abstract Background White matter hyperintensities (WMH) are very frequent in older adults and associated with worse cognitive performance. Little is known about the links between WMH and vascular risk factors, cortical β-amyloid (Aβ) load, and cognition in cognitively unimpaired adults across the entire lifespan, especially in young and middle-aged adults. Methods One hundred and thirty-seven cognitively unimpaired adults from the community were enrolled (IMAP cohort). Participants underwent (i) a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment of episodic memory, processing speed, working memory, and executive functions; (ii) brain structural T1 and FLAIR MRI scans used for the automatic segmentation of total and regional (frontal, parietal, temporal, occipital, and corpus callosum) WMH; and (iii) a Florbetapir-PET scan to measure cortical Aβ. The relationships of total and regional WMH to age, vascular risk factors, cortical Aβ, and cognition were assessed within the whole sample, but also splitting the sample in two age groups (≤ or > 60 years old). Results WMH increased with age across the adult lifespan, i.e., even in young and middle-aged adults. Systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and glycated hemoglobin were all associated with higher WMH before, but not after, adjusting for age and the other vascular risk factors. Higher frontal, temporal, and occipital WMH were associated with greater Aβ, but this association was no longer significant when adjusting for age and vascular risk factors. Higher total and frontal WMH were associated with worse performance in executive functions, with no interactive effect of the age group. In contrast, there was a significant interaction of the age group on the link between WMH and working memory, which was significant within the subgroup of young/middle-aged adults only. Adding cortical Aβ load in the models did not alter the results, and there was no interaction between WMH and Aβ on cognition. Conclusion WMH increased with age and were associated with worse executive functions across the adult lifespan and with worse working memory in young/middle-aged adults. Aβ load was weakly associated with WMH and did not change the relationship found between WMH and executive functions. This study argues for the clinical relevance of WMH across the adult lifespan, even in young and middle-aged adults with low WMH.
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Submitted on : Monday, June 21, 2021 - 4:18:40 PM
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Antoine Garnier-Crussard, Salma Bougacha, Miranka Wirth, Claire André, Marion Delarue, et al.. White matter hyperintensities across the adult lifespan: relation to age, Aβ load, and cognition. Alzheimer's Research & Therapy, 2020, 12 (1), ⟨10.1186/s13195-020-00669-4⟩. ⟨hal-03266323⟩



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