The aging, non-demented brain undergoes several physiological changes, some of which may affect cognitive function. The goal of the present study was to examine the associations between subcortical and periventricular white matter hyperintensities (WMHs), cortical and subcortical atrophy, and cognitive function (episodic memory, word fluency, attention, and perceptual, cognitive, and motor speed). This was done within a European collaborative study, Cardiovascular Determinants of Dementia (CASCADE), in which magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed on community-dwelling individuals. The study includes 1254 persons from eight European study centers, ranging between 64 and 76 years of age (M 69.4 ± 3.3; 55% men). When demographics (age, education, and sex), study center, and concurrent brain changes had been adjusted for, periventricular WMHS predicted lower performance in word fluency and the Stroop test (time), and subcortical atrophy predicted lower performance in motor speed and the Stroop test (errors). The findings are consistent with findings from lesion and functional neuroimaging studies.

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Neurobiology of Aging: age-related phenomena, neurodegeneration and neuropathology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Söderlund, H., Nilsson, L. G., Berger, K., Breteler, M., Dufouil, C., Fuhrer, R., … Launer, L. (2006). Cerebral changes on MRI and cognitive function: The CASCADE study. Neurobiology of Aging: age-related phenomena, neurodegeneration and neuropathology, 27(1), 16–23. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2004.12.008