Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Ileana Camerino (Donders series 565)

27 September 2022

Promotors: Prof. dr. R. P. C. Kessels, Prof. dr. H.F. de Leeuw
Copromotor: Dr. V. Piai

White matter tracts associated with executive aspects of language production in small vessel disease and stroke

Aging is an inevitable process that leads to changes in the structure of the brain. A main contributor of the increase of structural changes occurring in the aging brain is cerebral small vessel disease (SVD). The most common consequences of SVD, visible on neuroimaging scans of nearly all individuals older than 60 year old are white matter hyperintensities (WMH). Although the association between WMH and decline in general cognition is well established, there is high variability in the type and severity of clinical symptoms. Large amount of studies are focused on investigating the association between brain related pathology and executive functions in people with SVD. It is hypothesized that decline in cognition and executive functions, in particular, could be attributed to the disconnection between frontal and subcortical areas due to SVD related pathology in frontal-subcortical white matter pathways. Yet, little attention has been paid to language production abilities in people with SVD. The aim of this thesis is to investigate word production abilities in different pathologies of the basal ganglia such as SVD, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. Additionally the goal of this thesis is to explore the integrity of frontal white matter tracts and their association with performance in language production tasks in older people with SVD and in participants with a left hemisphere stroke. Word production abilities, although mildly, are affected by cerebrovascular lesions (either WMH or stroke) in areas that are not classically associated with language function, that is, a frontal white matter pathways and the basal ganglia.