White matter hyperintensities (WMH) can compromise cognition in older adults, but differences in sampling, WMH measurements, and cognitive assessments contribute to discrepant findings across studies. We examined linear and nonlinear effects of WMH volumes on cognition in 253 reasonably healthy adults. After adjusting for demographic characteristics and total brain volumes, WMH burden was not associated with cognition in those aged 20-59. In participants aged 60 and older, models accounted for ≥58% of the variance in performance on tests of working memory, processing speed, fluency, and fluid intelligence, and WMH volumes accounted for variance beyond that explained by age and other demographic characteristics. Larger increases in WMH burden over 5 years also were associated with steeper cognitive declines over the same interval. Results point to both age-related and age-independent effects of WMH on cognition in later life and suggest that the accumulation of WMH might partially explain normal age-related declines in cognition.
- Cardiovascular disease
- White matter hyperintensities
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health