White matter hyperintensities and hypobaric exposure

Stephen A. McGuire, Paul M. Sherman, S. Andrea Wijtenburg, Laura M. Rowland, Patrick M. Grogan, John H. Sladky, Andrew Y. Robinson, Peter V. Kochunov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objective: Demonstrate that occupational exposure to nonhypoxic hypobaria is associated with subcortical white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) on fluid-attenuated inversion recovery magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Methods: Eighty-three altitude chamber personnel (PHY), 105 U-2 pilots (U2P), and 148 age- controlled and healthmatched doctorate degree controls (DOC) underwent high-resolution MRI. Subcortical WMH burden was quantified as count and volume of subcortical WMH lesions after transformation of images to the Talairach atlas-based stereotactic frame.

Results: Subcortical WMHs were more prevalent in PHY (volume p=0.011/count p=0.019) and U2P (volume p<0.001/count p<0.001) when compared to DOC, whereas PHY were not significantly different than U2P.

Interpretation: This study provides strong evidence that nonhypoxic hypobaric exposure may induce subcortical WMHs in a young, healthy population lacking other risk factors for WMHs and adds this occupational exposure to other environmentally related potential causes of WMHs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-726
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of neurology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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