Cerebral white matter lesions and subjective cognitive dysfunction: the Rotterdam Scan Study

J.C. de Groot*, F.-E de Leeuw, M. Oudkerk, A. Hofman, J. Jolles

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Objective: To determine the relationship between cerebral white matter lesions (WML) and subjective cognitive dysfunction. Background: Subjective cognitive dysfunction is present when a person perceives failures of cognitive function. When annoying enough, these failures will be expressed as complaints. Subjective cognitive dysfunction may be a prelude to or coincide with objective cognitive impairment. WML have been related to objective cognitive impairment and dementia, but their relationship with subjective cognitive dysfunction is not clear. Previous population-based studies on the latter relationship have been limited in sample size, recording of subjective cognitive function, and assessment of WML severity. Methods: We randomly sampled 1,049 elderly nondemented participants from the general population. Data on subjective cognitive dysfunction and its progression were derived from a 15-item questionnaire. Objective cognitive performance was assessed using a series of neuropsychological tests. WML were scored on MRI for periventricular and subcortical regions separately. Results: WML were associated with more subjective cognitive failures. WML were more severe for participants reporting progression of these failures compared with participants without these failures, especially within participants with better than average cognitive performance (p = 0.008, for periventricular WML). Participants with severe WML reported progression of cognitive failures more than twice as often than did those with little or no WML. The relationship between the severity of WML and subjective cognitive failures was present for periventricular and subcortical WML. Conclusions: WML are associated with subjective cognitive failures and in particular with reporting progression of these failures, even in the absence of objective cognitive impairment.

    Received July 14, 2000.
    Accepted February 8, 2001.
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    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1539-1545
    Number of pages7
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001

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