'Harmless' leukoaraiosis alters brain function, scientists say

14 August 2012

A 'harmless' condition called leukoaraiosis often seen in older individuals is actually a disease that alters brain function, according to researchers.

Scientists from Mayo Clinic studied the condition, which affects tiny areas of the brain that have been starved of oxygen and show up as bright white dots on MRI scans.

The research, published in the journal Radiology, revealed that rather it being a harmless part of the ageing process, leukoraiosis is a condition in which diseased blood vessels cause small areas of damage in the brain's white matter.

Cognitively normal participants were imaged in an MRI scanner as they performed a semantic decision task and a visual perception task.

While both people who were found to have leukoaraiosis and those who did not performed the task with similar levels of success, those with moderate levels of the disease showed atypical brain activation patterns.

This included decreased activation of the parts of the brain which are involved in language processing during the semantic test, and increased activation in visual-spatial areas during the visual perception task.

Posted by Edward Bartel

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