White matter hyperintensities (WMHs) are associated with poorer brain health, but their pathophysiological substrates remain elusive. To better understand the mechanistic underpinnings of WMHs among older adults, this study examined in vivo cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers of β-amyloid deposition (Aβ), hyperphosphorylated tau pathology, neurodegeneration (total tau), and axonal injury (neurofilament light [NFL]) in relation to log-transformed WMHs volume. Participants free of clinical stroke and dementia were drawn from the Vanderbilt Memory & Aging Project (n = 148, 72 ± 6 years). Linear regression models adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, intracranial volume, modified Framingham Stroke Risk Profile (excluding points assigned for age), cognitive diagnosis, and APOE-ε4 carrier status. Aβ (β = -0.001, p = 0.007) and NFL (β = 0.0003, p = 0.01) concentrations related to WMHs but neither hyperphosphorylated tau nor total tau associations with WMHs reached statistical significance (p-values > 0.21). In a combined model, NFL accounted for 3.2% of unique variance in WMHs and Aβ accounted for an additional 4.3% beyond NFL, providing novel evidence of the co-occurrence of at least 2 distinct pathways for WMHs among older adults, including amyloid deposition and axonal injury.
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