Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Neuropsychiatric symptoms could form part of an early cerebral small vessel disease prodrome that is detectable before stroke or dementia onset. We aimed to identify whether apathy, depression, anxiety, and subjective memory complaints associate with longitudinal white matter hyperintensity (WMH) progression. METHODS: Community-dwelling older adults from the observational Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 attended three visits at mean ages 73, 76, and 79 years, repeating MRI, Mini-Mental State Examination, neuropsychiatric (Dimensional Apathy Scale, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), and subjective memory symptoms. We ran regression and mixed-effects models for symptoms and normalised WMH volumes (cube root of WMH:ICV × 10). RESULTS: At age 73, 76, and 79, m = 672, n = 476, and n = 382 participants attended MRI respectively. Worse apathy at age 79 was associated with WMH volume increase (β = 0.27, p = 0.04) in the preceding 6 years. A 1SD increase in apathy score at age 79 associated with a 0.17 increase in WMH (β = 0.17 normalised WMH percent ICV, p = 0.009). In apathy subscales, executive (β = 0.13, p = 0.05) and emotional (β = 0.13, p = 0.04) scores associated with increasing WMH more than initiation scores (β = 0.11, p = 0.08). Increasing WMH also associated with age (β = 0.40, p = 0.002) but not higher depression (β = -0.01, p = 0.78), anxiety (β = 0.05, p = 0.13) scores, or subjective memory complaints (β = 1.12, p = 0.75). CONCLUSIONS: Apathy independently associates with preceding longitudinal WMH progression, while depression, anxiety, and subjective memory complaints do not. Patients with apathy should be considered for enrolment to small vessel disease trials.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere5855
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date28 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • ageing
  • apathy
  • cerebral small vessel disease
  • cognition
  • longitudinal studies
  • white matter hyperintensities


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