Subjective Cognitive Decline Is Associated with Greater White Matter Hyperintensity Volume

J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;66(3):1283-1294. doi: 10.3233/JAD-180285.


Background: Research in older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) has mainly focused on Alzheimer's disease (AD)-related MRI markers, such as hippocampal volume. However, small vessel disease (SVD) is currently established as serious comorbidity in dementia and its preliminary stages. It is therefore important to examine SVD markers in addition to AD markers in older adults presenting with SCD.

Objective: The aim of our study was to elucidate the role of SVD markers in late middle-aged to older adults with and without SCD in addition to the commonly found role of AD markers (hippocampal volume).

Methods: 67 healthy late middle-aged to older adults participated in this study (mean age 68 years); 25 participants with SCD and 42 participants without SCD. We evaluated quantitative as well as qualitative AD markers (i.e., hippocampal volume and medial temporal lobe atrophy (MTA) scale) and SVD markers (i.e., white matter hyperintensities (WMH) volume, Fazekas scale, microbleeds, and lacunar infarcts), and neuropsychological function and amount of memory complaints.

Results: We found a significant effect of SCD on hippocampal atrophy, as assessed using the MTA scale, but not on hippocampal volume. In addition, we found a significant effect of SCD, and amount of memory complaints, on WMH volume and Fazekas score, suggesting larger WMH volumes in participants with SCD.

Conclusion: SVD MRI markers are related to amount of memory complaints, in addition to the commonly observed AD MRI markers, as demonstrated by the greater WMHs in healthy late middle-aged to older adults with SCD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; cerebral small vessel disease; magnetic resonance imaging; subjective cognitive decline.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Small Vessel Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*