Cerebral tract integrity relates to white matter hyperintensities, cortex volume, and cognition

Stephan Seiler, Evan Fletcher, Kinsy Hassan-Ali, Michelle Weinstein, Alexa Beiser, Jayandra J. Himali, Claudia L. Satizabal, Sudha Seshadri, Charles DeCarli, Pauline Maillard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We examined the relationship among white matter (WM) tract integrity, WM hyperintensities (WMH), lobar gray matter (GM) volumes, and cognition in the cross-sectional Framingham Offspring Study. Six hundred eighty participants (71.7 ± 7.7 years) completed cognitive testing and magnetic resonance imaging. Diffusion tensor imaging probabilistic tractography was used to reconstruct major WM tracts. We computed tract-specific mean fractional anisotropy (FA) and tract-specific WMH ratio. Linear regressions identified relations between tracts and lobar GM volumes. Partial least squares regression examined associations between integrity of combined tracts, lobar GM volumes and cognition, including scores of memory and processing speed. Five tracts were particularly vulnerable to WMH, and tract-specific WMH volumes were inversely associated with tract-specific FA (p values < 0.05). Tract-specific FA related to lobar GM volumes. Memory was associated with lobar GM, while processing speed related to both tract integrity and lobar GM volumes. We conclude that subtle microstructural WM tract degeneration relates to specific lobar GM atrophy. The integrity of associated WM tracts and GM lobes differentially impacts memory and processing speed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-22
Number of pages9
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive aging
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Tractography
  • WMH
  • White matter hyperintensities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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