White matter hyperintensities: Relationship to amyloid and tau burden

Jonathan Graff-Radford, Eider M. Arenaza-Urquijo, David S. Knopman, Christopher G. Schwarz, Robert D. Brown, Alejandro A. Rabinstein, Jeffrey L. Gunter, Matthew L. Senjem, Scott A. Przybelski, Timothy Lesnick, Chadwick Ward, Michelle M. Mielke, Val J. Lowe, Ronald C. Petersen, Walter K. Kremers, Kejal Kantarci, Clifford R. Jack, Prashanthi Vemuri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Although white matter hyperintensities have traditionally been viewed as a marker of vascular disease, recent pathology studies have found an association between white matter hyperintensities and Alzheimer's disease pathologies. The objectives of this study were to investigate the topographic patterns of white matter hyperintensities associated with Alzheimer's disease biomarkers measured using PET. From the population-based Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, 434 participants without dementia (55% male) with FLAIR and gradient recall echo MRI, tau-PET (AV-1451) and amyloid-PET scans were identified. A subset had cerebral microbleeds detected on T2∗ gradient recall echo scans. White matter hyperintensities were semi-automatically segmented using FLAIR MRI in participant space and normalized to a custom template. We used statistical parametric mapping 12-based, voxel-wise, multiple-regression analyses to detect white matter hyperintense regions associated with Alzheimer's biomarkers (global amyloid from amyloid-PET and meta-regions of interest tau uptake from tau-PET) after adjusting for age, sex and hypertension. For amyloid associations, we additionally adjusted for tau and vice versa. Topographic patterns of amyloid-associated white matter hyperintensities included periventricular white matter hyperintensities (frontal and parietal lobes). White matter hyperintense volumes in the detected topographic pattern correlated strongly with lobar cerebral microbleeds (P < 0.001, age and sex adjusted Cohen's d = 0.703). In contrast, there were no white matter hyperintense regions significantly associated with increased tau burden using voxel-based analysis or region-specific analysis. Among non-demented elderly, amyloid load correlated with a topographic pattern of white matter hyperintensities. Further, the amyloid-associated, white matter hyperintense regions strongly correlated with lobar cerebral microbleeds suggesting that cerebral amyloid angiopathy contributes to the relationship between amyloid and white matter hyperintensities. The study did not support an association between increased tau burden and white matter hyperintense burden.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2483-2491
Number of pages9
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • cerebral amyloid angiopathy
  • cerebral microbleeds
  • tau burden
  • white matter hyperintensities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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