Neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) are a core feature of most neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases. White matter hyperintensities and brain atrophy have been implicated in NPS. We aimed to investigate the relative contribution of white matter hyperintensities and cortical thickness to NPS in participants across neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases.
Five hundred thirteen participants with one of these conditions, i.e. Alzheimer’s Disease/Mild Cognitive Impairment, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Frontotemporal Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, or Cerebrovascular Disease, were included in the study. NPS were assessed using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory – Questionnaire and grouped into hyperactivity, psychotic, affective, and apathy subsyndromes. White matter hyperintensities were quantified using a semi-automatic segmentation technique and FreeSurfer cortical thickness was used to measure regional grey matter loss.
Although NPS were frequent across the five disease groups, participants with frontotemporal dementia had the highest frequency of hyperactivity, apathy, and affective subsyndromes compared to other groups, whilst psychotic subsyndrome was high in both frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Results from univariate and multivariate results showed that various predictors were associated with neuropsychiatric subsyndromes, especially cortical thickness in the inferior frontal, cingulate, and insula regions, sex(female), global cognition, and basal ganglia-thalamus white matter hyperintensities.
In participants with neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases, our results suggest that smaller cortical thickness and white matter hyperintensity burden in several cortical-subcortical structures may contribute to the development of NPS. Further studies investigating the mechanisms that determine the progression of NPS in various neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases are needed.