Associations between reaction time measures and white matter hyperintensities in very old age

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In old age, a relationship has been reported between intraindividual variability (IIV) in reaction time and white matter integrity as evidenced by white matter hyperintensities (WMH). However, it is unclear how far such associations are due to incipient neurodegenerative pathology in the samples investigated. The present study examined the relationship between IIV and WMH in older individuals (N=526) drawn from the Sydney Memory and Ageing Study. Using a complex reaction time (RT) task, greater IIV and mean-RT were related to a higher WMH burden in the frontal lobe. Critically, significant associations remained having taken future dementia into account suggesting that they were not explained by incipient dementia. Additionally, independent measures of executive function accounted for the association between RT metrics and WHM. The results are consistent with the view that frontally-supported cognitive processes are involved in IIV-WMH relations, and that RT measures are sensitive to compromise in white matter structures in non-demented older individuals.

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