Subcortical hyperintensity on magnetic resonance imaging is a common incidental finding in healthy elderly subjects. The relationship of such changes to cognitive functioning remains unclear, however, because only a small number of studies have examined this issue with conflicting results. We therefore assessed 66 healthy adult volunteers (mean [+/- SD] age, 61.8 +/- 15.8 years) with magnetic resonance imaging scans rated for subcortical hyperintensity, and with two neuropsychological instruments selected a priori on the basis of previous reports in the literature. Findings were highly significant for both the Benton Facial Recognition Test and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised Digit Symbol. However, in both cases, the majority of variance was accounted for by age and educational level. Effects of subcortical hyperintensity were not significant. We conclude that subcortical hyperintensity in healthy adults does not relate to cognitive functioning, at least with these two instruments.