The role of white matter hyperintensities and medial temporal lobe atrophy in age-related executive dysfunctioning

J.M. Oosterman, R.L.C. Vogels, A.C. van Harten, A.A. Gouw, P. Scheltens, A. Poggesi, H.C. Weinstein, E.J.A. Scherder

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Various studies support an association between white matter hyperintensities (WMH) and deficits in executive function in nondemented ageing. Studies examining executive functions and WMH have generally adopted executive function as a phrase including various functions such as flexibility, inhibition, and working memory. However, these functions include distinctive cognitive processes and not all may be affected as a result of WMH. Furthermore, atrophy of the medial temporal lobe (MTA) is frequently observed in ageing. Nevertheless, in previous studies of nondemented ageing MTA was not considered when examining a relationship between white matter and executive function. The goal of the present study was to examine how WMH and MTA relate to a variety of executive functions, including flexibility, fluency, inhibition, planning, set shifting, and working memory. Strong correlations were observed between WMH and MTA and most of the executive functions. However, only MTA was related to flexibility and set shifting performance. Regression analysis furthermore showed that MTA was the strongest predictor of working memory, after which no further significant association with WMH was noted. Alternatively, both MTA and periventricular hyperintensities independently predicted inhibition performance. These findings emphasize the importance of MTA when examining age-related decline in executive functioning. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-133
Number of pages6
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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