Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis




Behavioral Science

First Advisor

Dr. Gregory A. Jicha

Second Advisor

Dr. Charles D. Smith


The relationship between cerebrovascular disease (CVD) risk factors and cognitive impairment or dementia has been widely studied with significant variability in findings between groups. We hypothesized that chronic small vessel injury in the form of arteriolar sclerosis, measured quantitatively using MRI to measure total white matter hyperintensity (WMH) volumes, would identify specific association of CVD risk factors and patterns of cognitive decline, associated with mild cognitive impairment of the cerebrovascular type, that represent the core features of vascular cognitive impairment in our cohort.

A Cross-sectional analysis of clinical and quantitative MRI data on 114 subjects with normal cognitive function (n=52) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI; n=62) was performed. Quantitative total WMH volumes were examined in relation to potentially causative CVD risk factors and resultant test scores across cognitive domains using linear regression models adjusted for age, gender, and education.

Among CVD risk factors analyzed, age (p< 0.001), education (p= 0.003), hypertension (p= 0.012), and hyperlipidemia (p= 0.008) demonstrated the strongest associations with WMH volumes. Conversely, diabetes, smoking, history of heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, and history of stroke that have shown associations with CVD pathology on imaging in other studies were not statistically associated with increased WMH in this cohort. WMH volumes were associated with decrease performance on the Trial Making Test type A & B and long delayed free recall on the California Verbal Learning Test.

Our findings suggest similarities and yet differences in comparison to other studies. Hypertension and hyperlipidemia appear to represent common shared risks across geographically disparate groups. Our findings, like others, suggest CVD pathology impact processing speed and executive function and provide further evidence for CVD effects on short-term memory in those at risk for cognitive decline and the future development of dementia in our cohort.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)