Neuroimaging of older adults commonly reveals abnormality (leukoaraiosis) in the cerebral white matter. Studies have established that extensive leukoaraiosis predicts dementia and disability, but the pathogenesis of leukoaraiosis remains unclear. We recruited 5 patients with leukoaraiosis and performed magnetic resonance mapping of the brain for 16 consecutive weeks. We observed tiny lesions arising de novo in the cerebral white matter. These lesions were clinically silent. They had the signature features of acute ischemic stroke. With time, the characteristics of these lesions approached those of pre-existing leukoaraiosis. Together, these findings suggest that tiny silent acute infarcts are a cause of leukoaraiosis.
© 2014 American Neurological Association.