Early-Stage White Matter Lesions Detected by Multispectral MRI Segmentation Predict Progressive Cognitive Decline

Hanna JJokinen, Nicolau Goncalves, Ricardo Vigario, Jari Lipsanen, Franz Fazekas, Reinhold Schmidt, Frederik Barkhof, Sofia Madureira, Ana Verdelho, Domenico Inzitari, Leonardo Pantoni, Timo Erkinjuntti

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

White matter lesions (WML) are the main brain imaging surrogate of cerebral small-vessel disease. A new MRI tissue segmentation method, based on a discriminative clustering approach without explicit model-based added prior, detects partial WML volumes, likely representing very early-stage changes in normal-appearing brain tissue. This study investigated how the different stages of WML, from a “pre-visible” stage to fully developed lesions, predict future cognitive decline. MRI scans of 78 subjects, aged 65–84 years, from the Leukoaraiosis and Disability (LADIS) study were analyzed using a self-supervised multispectral segmentation algorithm to identify tissue types and partial WML volumes. Each lesion voxel was classified as having a small (33%), intermediate (66%), or high (100%) proportion of lesion tissue. The subjects were evaluated with detailed clinical and neuropsychological assessments at baseline and at three annual follow-up visits. We found that voxels with small partial WML predicted lower executive function compound scores at baseline, and steeper decline of executive scores in follow-up, independently of the demographics and the conventionally estimated hyperintensity volume on fluid-attenuated inversion recovery images. The intermediate and fully developed lesions were related to impairments in multiple cognitive domains including executive functions, processing speed, memory, and global cognitive function. In conclusion, early-stage partial WML, still too faint to be clearly detectable on conventional MRI, already predict executive dysfunction and progressive cognitive decline regardless of the conventionally evaluated WML load. These findings advance early recognition of small vessel disease and incipient vascular cognitive impairment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number455
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Volume9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • executive functions
  • cognition
  • image analysis
  • MRI
  • neuropsychology
  • white matter lesions
  • small vessel disease

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