Iron dysregulation may attenuate cognitive performance in patients with CADASIL. However, the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms remain incompletely understood. Whether white matter microstructural changes mediate these processes is largely unclear. In the present study, 30 cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) patients were confirmed via genetic analysis and 30 sex- and age-matched healthy controls underwent multimodal MRI examinations and neuropsychological assessments. Quantitative susceptibility mapping and peak width of skeletonized mean diffusivity (PSMD) were analyzed. Mediation effect analysis was performed to explore the interrelationship between iron deposition, white matter microstructural changes and cognitive deficits in CADASIL. Cognitive deterioration was most affected in memory and executive function, followed by attention and working memory in CADASIL. Excessive iron in the temporal-precuneus pathway and deep gray matter specific to CADASIL were identified. Mediation analysis further revealed that PSMD mediated the relationship between iron concentration and cognitive profile in CADASIL. The present findings provide a new perspective on iron deposition in the corticosubcortical circuit and its contribution to disease-related selective cognitive decline, in which iron concentration may affect cognition by white matter microstructural changes in CADASIL.
Keywords: CADASIL; Cerebral small vessel disease (cSVD); Cognitive deficit; Iron deposition; Peak width of skeletonized mean diffusivity (PSMD); Quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM).
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