Homocysteine, white matter hyperintensities, and cognition in healthy elderly people

Ann Neurol. 2003 Feb;53(2):214-21. doi: 10.1002/ana.10440.


Hyperhomocysteinemia is associated with an increased risk of vascular disease, and recent results suggest that it also could increase the risk of dementia. We examined the relationship between homocysteine and cognitive decline in 1,241 subjects aged 61 to 73 years, followed up over 4 years. Plasma homocysteine levels were determined in all participants as well as cardiovascular risk factors, apolipoprotein E genotype, plasma levels of folate, and vitamin B12. Cognitive performances were assessed repeatedly by using Mini-Mental State Examination, Trail Making Test, Digit Symbol Substitution Test, and Finger Tapping Test. At 2-year follow-up, 841 subjects underwent cerebral magnetic resonance imaging, and white matter hyperintensities were rated visually. Analyses were adjusted for all cardiovascular risk factors. Cross-sectional analyses showed that higher concentrations of homocysteine were significantly related to poorer performances at all neuropsychological tests. Longitudinal analyses confirmed this finding. The odds of cognitive decline was 2.8-fold (p < 0.05) higher in subjects with homocysteine levels above 15 micromol/L compared with those with homocysteine levels below 10 micromol/L. In participants who underwent magnetic resonance imaging, the relationship between homocysteine and cognition was unchanged after taking into account white matter hyperintensities suggesting that white matter hyperintensities do not mediate the association between homocysteine and cognition.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cognition Disorders / blood
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dementia / blood*
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Dementia / pathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Homocysteine / blood*
  • Humans
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia / epidemiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers / pathology
  • Risk Factors


  • Homocysteine