Progression of White Matter Disease and Cortical Thinning Are Not Related in Older Community-Dwelling Subjects

Stroke. 2016 Feb;47(2):410-6. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.115.011229. Epub 2015 Dec 22.


Background and purpose: We assessed cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between whole brain white matter hyperintensity (WMH) volume and regional cortical thickness.

Methods: We measured WMH volume and regional cortical thickness on magnetic resonance imaging at ≈73 and ≈76 years in 351 community-dwelling subjects from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. We used multiple linear regression to calculate cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between regional cortical thickness and WMH volume controlling for age, sex, Mini Mental State Examination, education, intelligence quotient at age 11, and vascular risk factors.

Results: We found cross-sectional associations between WMH volume and cortical thickness within and surrounding the Sylvian fissure at 73 and 76 years (rho=-0.276, Q=0.004). However, we found no significant longitudinal associations between (1) baseline WMH volume and change in cortical thickness; (2) baseline cortical thickness and change in WMH volume; or (3) change in WMH volume and change in cortical thickness.

Conclusions: Our results show that WMH volume and cortical thinning both worsen with age and are associated cross-sectionally within and surrounding the Sylvian fissure. However, changes in WMH volume and cortical thinning from 73 to 76 years are not associated longitudinally in these relatively healthy older subjects. The underlying cause(s) of WMH growth and cortical thinning have yet to be fully determined.

Keywords: MRI; ageing; brain; cortex; white matter hyperintensities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Independent Living*
  • Leukoencephalopathies / epidemiology
  • Leukoencephalopathies / pathology*
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Risk Factors
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • White Matter / pathology*