Total MRI load of cerebral small vessel disease and cognitive ability in older people

Neurobiol Aging. 2015 Oct;36(10):2806-11. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2015.06.024. Epub 2015 Jun 26.


Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) may cause cognitive dysfunction. We tested the association between the combined presence of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) features of SVD and cognitive ability in older age. Cognitive testing and brain MRI were performed in 680 older participants. MRI presence of lacunes, white matter hyperintensities, microbleeds, and perivascular spaces were summed in a score of 0-4 representing all SVD features combined. We also applied latent variable modeling to test whether the 4 MRI features form a unitary SVD construct. The SVD score showed significant associations with general cognitive ability. Latent variable modeling indicated that the 4 MRI markers formed a unitary construct, which showed consistent associations with cognitive ability compared with the SVD score. Total MRI load of SVD is associated with lower general cognitive ability in older age. The total SVD score performed consistently with the more complex latent variable model, suggesting validity and potential utility in future research for determining total SVD load.

Keywords: Cerebral microbleeds; Cerebral small vessel disease; Cerebrovascular disease; Cognitive aging; Lacunes; MRI; Perivascular spaces; White matter hyperintensities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cerebral Small Vessel Diseases / pathology*
  • Cerebral Small Vessel Diseases / psychology*
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging*