Gray matter reduction is correlated with white matter hyperintensity volume: a voxel-based morphometric study in a large epidemiological sample.Neuroimage. 2006 Feb 15; 29(4):1031-9.N
Both brain atrophy and T2-weighted white matter hyperintensities (WMH) are common findings in the brains of asymptomatic elderly individuals as well as in disease-specific brains. The study of the relationship between these two salient features is therefore important. To investigate such a relationship, we performed a brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study on 397 asymptomatic individuals aged between 60 and 64 years, who were recruited randomly from a large community sample. WMH were delineated on T2-weighted fluid attenuation inversion recovery (FLAIR) whole brain scans using an automated procedure. The results showed that gray matter reduction, subarachnoid CSF (SA-CSF) increase and lateral ventricular dilation were significantly correlated with WMH load. Deep white matter hyperintensity (DWMH) had significant correlation with all three global atrophy indices, but periventricular white matter hyperintensity (PVWMH) was correlated only with gray matter volume. Voxel-based morphometric (VBM) analysis showed that regional gray matter reduction correlated more closely with WMH load of the proximate region than with WMH elsewhere. The results suggest that WMH have a relationship with brain atrophy in middle age, although the study cannot determine which process, i.e. the development of WMH or atrophy, is primary. The study also demonstrates that DWMH has a more significant relationship with structural brain changes, and may therefore be more functionally relevant than PVWMH. Further delineation of this relationship needs a longitudinal study of the changes in both WMH and indices of brain atrophy.