Background: Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) is characterized by leukoencephalopathy leading to cognitive impairment. Subtle cognitive deficits can be observed early in the course of the disease, before the occurrence of the first stroke. Therefore, markers that can predict disease progression at this early stage, when interventions are likely to alter disease course, are needed. We aimed to examine the biological cascade of microstructural and macrostructural white matter (WM) abnormalities underlying cognitive deficits in CADASIL. Methods: We examined 20 nondemented CADASIL mutation carriers and 23 noncarriers who underwent neuropsychological evaluation and magnetic resonance imaging. Using probabilistic tractography of key WM tracts, we examined group differences in diffusivity measures and WM hyperintensity volume. Successive mediation models examined whether tract-specific WM abnormalities mediated subtle cognitive differences between CADASIL mutation carriers and noncarriers. Results: The largest effect size differentiating the two groups was observed for left superior longitudinal fasciculus-temporal (SLFt) diffusivity (Cohen's f = 0.49). No group differences were observed with a global diffusion measure. These specific microstructural differences in the SLFt were associated with higher WM hyperintensities burden, and subtle executive deficits in CADASIL mutation carriers. Discussion: Worse diffusivity in the left SLFt is related to greater severity of small vessel disease and worse executive functioning in the asymptomatic stage of the disease. Worse diffusivity of the left SLFt may potentially hold promise as an indicator of disease progression. Diffusion tensor imaging outperforms conventional imaging of subcortical small vessel disease as a potential marker of future disease progression. Here we identified the left superior longitudinal temporal fasciculus as a critical white matter fiber bundle, of which worse diffusivity can link presence of cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy mutations to greater severity of small vessel disease and worse executive functioning in asymptomatic stages of the disease. This tract may hold promise and deserves further examination as an early indicator of disease progression.
- EXECUTIVE DYSFUNCTION
- NOTCH3 MUTATIONS
- diffusion tensor imaging
- white matter hyperintensities
- White matter hyperintensities
- Diffusion tensor imaging