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White matter lesions on magnetic resonance imaging in dementia with Lewy bodies, Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and normal aging
  1. R Barbera,
  2. P Scheltensc,
  3. A Gholkara,
  4. C Ballardb,
  5. I McKeitha,
  6. P Inceb,
  7. R Perrya,
  8. J O’Briena
  1. aInstitute for the Health of the Elderly, bMRC Neurochemical Pathology Unit, Newcastle General Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, cDepartment of Neurology, Academisch Ziekenhuis VU, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Dr R Barber, Institute for the Health of the Elderly, Newcastle General Hospital, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 6BE, U.K. Tel +(0)191 256 3274 ext. 22986; fax +(0)191 219 5048; email Robert.Barber{at}


OBJECTIVES Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are associated with an increase in changes in white matter on MRI. The aims were to investigate whether white matter changes also occur in dementia with Lewy bodies and to examine the relation between white matter lesions and the cognitive and non-cognitive features of dementia with Lewy bodies, Alzheimer’s disease, and vascular dementia.

METHODS Proton density and T2 weighted images were obtained on a 1.0 Tesla MRI scanner in patients with dementia with Lewy bodies (consensus criteria; n=27, mean age=75.9 years), Alzheimer’s disease (NINCDS/ADRDA; n=28, mean age=77.4 years), vascular dementia (NINDS/AIREN; n=25, mean age=76.8 years), and normal controls (n=26, mean age=76.2 years). Cognitive function, depressive symptoms, and psychotic features were assessed using a standardised protocol. Periventricular hyperintensities (PVHs), white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) and basal ganglia hyperintensities (BGHs) were visually rated blind to diagnosis using a semiquantitative scale.

RESULTS Periventricular hyperintensities were positively correlated with age and were more severe in all dementia groups than controls. Total deep hyperintensities scores (WMHs plus BGHs) were significantly higher in all dementia groups than controls and higher in patients with vascular dementia than those with dementia with Lewy bodies or Alzheimer’s disease. In all patients with dementia, frontal WMHs were associated with higher depression scores and occipital WMHs were associated with an absence of visual hallucinations and delusions.

CONCLUSION In common with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, PVHs and WMHs were significantly more extensive in dementia with Lewy bodies than in controls. This overlap between different dementias may reflect shared pathological mechanisms. The link between frontal WMHs and depression and the absence of occipital WMHs and psychotic symptoms has important implications for understanding the neurobiological basis of these symptoms.

  • dementia
  • white matter hyperintensities
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

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