White matter hyperintensity load varies depending on subjective cognitive decline criteria

Geroscience. 2023 Feb;45(1):17-28. doi: 10.1007/s11357-022-00684-3. Epub 2022 Nov 19.


Increased age and cognitive impairment is associated with an increase in cerebrovascular pathology often measured as white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) on MRI. Whether WMH burden differs between cognitively unimpaired older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD +) and without subjective cognitive decline (SCD -) remains conflicting, and could be related to the methods used to identify SCD. Our goal was to examine if four common SCD classification methods are associated with different WMH accumulation patterns between SCD + and SCD - . A total of 535 cognitively unimpaired older adults with 1353 time points from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative were included in this study. SCD was operationalized using four different methods: Cognitive Change Index (CCI), Everyday Cognition Scale (ECog), ECog + Worry, and Worry. Linear mixed-effects models were used to investigate the associations between SCD and overall and regional WMH burden. Overall temporal WMH burden differences were only observed with the Worry questionnaire. Higher WMH burden change over time was observed in SCD + compared to SCD - in the temporal and parietal regions using the CCI (temporal, p = .01; parietal p = .02) and ECog (temporal, p = .02; parietal p = .01). For both the ECog + Worry and Worry questionnaire, change in WMH burden over time was increased in SCD + compared to SCD - for overall, frontal, temporal, and parietal WMH burden (p < .05). These results show that WMH burden differs between SCD + and SCD - depending on the questionnaire and the approach (regional/global) used to measure WMHs. The various methods used to define SCD may reflect different types of underlying pathologies.

Keywords: Older adults; Subjective Cognitive decline; White matter hyperintensities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease* / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • White Matter* / diagnostic imaging