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White matter hyperintensities are positively associated with cortical thickness in Alzheimer’s disease

White matter hyperintensities are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. White matter hyperintensities are believed to disconnect brain areas. In this study, we examined topographical associations between white matter hyperintensities and cortical thickness among 18 older cognitively healthy participants, 18 amnestic mild cognitive impairment, and 17 mild Alzheimer patients. These associations were analyzed with FreeSurfer and cluster-size corrected for multiple comparisons.In controls, a positive association between white matter hyperintensities and cortical thickness was found in lateral temporal gyri. In mild cognitive impairment patients, white matter hyperintensities were positively related to cortical thickness in frontal, temporal and parietal areas. Positive associations between white matter hyperintensities and cortical thickness in Alzheimer patients were confined to parietal areas. The results of the interaction group by white matter hyperintensities on cortical thickness was consistent with the findings of positive associations in the parietal lobe for patients with mild cognitive impairment and patients with Alzheimer’s disease patients separately. In the frontal areas, controls and patients with Alzheimer’s disease patients showed inverse associations between white matter hyperintensities and cortical thickness, while patients with mild cognitive impairment patients still showed a positive association.

These results suggest that a paradoxical relationship between white matter hyperintensities and cortical thickness could be a consequence of neuroinflammatory processes induced by Alzheimer-pathology and white matter hyperintensities. Alternatively, it might reflect a region-specific and disease-stage dependent compensatory hypertrophy in response to a compromised network.

Jacobs2013

Association between total white matter hyperintensities and cortical thickness differences for each group

Note: Cortical thickness maps showing the relationship between total white matter hyperintensities and cortical thickness in cognitively healthy older persons (controls), amnestic MCI patients and AD patients. The color scale (expressed in 10-x)at the bottom represents the significance of the thickness differences with yellow-red indicating regions where a positive relationship between WMHs and cortical thickness was found. These maps are age-and ICV-corrected and cluster-wise corrected for multiple comparisons. Abbreviations: MCI: Mild Cognitive Impairment; AD: Alzheimer’s Disease


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