Role of white matter lesions in cognitive impairment of vascular origin

Leonardo Pantoni, Didier Leys, Franz Fazekas, Will T. Longstreth, Domenico Inzitari, Anders Wallin, Massimo Filippi, Philip Scheltens, Timo Erkinjuntti, Vladimir Hachinski

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White matter changes are detected with high frequency by neuroimaging techniques in aged subjects with cerebrovascular risk factors or diseases and in cognitively impaired patients. Their direct role in causing cognitive deterioration has not been established, although their frequency is higher in demented subjects than in normal controls, and they are associated with specific cognitive deficits, particularly those related to impairment of frontal lobe functions. The aim of this paper is to critically review the existing knowledge about the role of white matter lesions in cognitive impairment of vascular origin. After reviewing the scarce evidence and the numerous clues suggesting a possible role of white matter lesions in causing mental decline, proposals are advanced about elements that could be a basis for revised criteria for vascular dementia for clinical trials. Finally, some items requiring future joint investigations in the fields of age-related white matter lesions are identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S49-S54
JournalAlzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Clinical trials
  • Dementia
  • Leukoaraiosis
  • Small vessel
  • Vascular dementia
  • White matter lesions

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