White matter hyperintensities (WMHs) are frequently seen on brain magnetic resonance imaging scans of older people. Usually interpreted clinically as a surrogate for cerebral small vessel disease, WMHs are associated with increased likelihood of cognitive impairment and dementia (including Alzheimer's disease [AD]). WMHs are also seen in cognitively healthy people. In this collaboration of academic, clinical, and pharmaceutical industry perspectives, we identify outstanding questions about WMHs and their relation to cognition, dementia, and AD. What molecular and cellular changes underlie WMHs? What are the neuropathological correlates of WMHs? To what extent are demyelination and inflammation present? Is it helpful to subdivide into periventricular and subcortical WMHs? What do WMHs signify in people diagnosed with AD? What are the risk factors for developing WMHs? What preventive and therapeutic strategies target WMHs? Answering these questions will improve prevention and treatment of WMHs and dementia.
Keywords: Leukoaraiosis; Small vessel disease; Vascular cognitive impairment; Vascular dementia; White matter lesions.