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Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Aug 15;64(4):273-80. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.03.024. Epub 2008 May 8.

Classification of white matter lesions on magnetic resonance imaging in elderly persons.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27705, USA.


White matter lesions, commonly seen on MRIs of elderly people, are related to various geriatric disorders, including cerebrovascular diseases, cardiovascular diseases, dementia, and psychiatric disorders. Currently, white matter lesions are divided into periventricular white matter lesions and deep white matter lesions. Although the meaning of these terms varies by study and this dichotomization itself is still in debate, a possible dissimilarity in pathogenic mechanisms between periventricular white matter lesions and deep white matter lesions are providing some clues for understanding pathophysiology of many geriatric syndromes associated with white matter lesions. We have reviewed the distinctions between periventricular white matter lesions and deep white matter lesions in terms of etiology, histopathology, functional correlates, and imaging methodologies. We suggest a new subclassification of white matter lesions that might have better etiological and functional relevance than the current simple dichotomization. The new categories are juxtaventricular, periventricular, deep white, and juxtacortical. This new classification scheme might contribute to reducing the heterogeneity of white matter lesion findings in future research.

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