The cognitive correlates of white matter abnormalities in normal aging: a quantitative review

Neuropsychology. 2000 Apr;14(2):224-32. doi: 10.1037//0894-4105.14.2.224.


Cerebral white matter of asymptomatic people frequently exhibits circumscribed areas of hyperintensity on magnetic resonance (MR) images and hypodensity on computed tomography scans. However, behavioral implications of this phenomenon remain unclear. In this meta-analysis, the authors examine cumulative evidence regarding the cognitive sequelae of white matter abnormalities in adults without dementia. The influence of potential moderator variables, such as neuroimaging technique, location of the lesions, rating scale, and demographic characteristics of the sample on the association between the burden of white matter hyperintensities and cognitive performance was also examined. Results indicate that white matter abnormalities observed on MR images are associated with attenuated performance on tasks of processing speed, immediate and delayed memory, executive functions, and indices of global cognitive functioning. There was no significant link between the white matter hyperintensities and psychometric indices of intelligence or fine motor performance.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed