Screening for areas of damage from a possible mini-stroke could help predict memory loss in the elderly, reveals a new study.
During the study, the researchers tested 679 people age 65 and older without dementia for mild cognitive impairment, the stage between normal aging and dementia.
The participants underwent brain scans where scientists looked for small areas of brain damage called white matter hyperintensities, often referred to as ministrokes.
They also looked for infarcts, or areas of dead tissue usually called strokes. Both types of brain damage may be caused by vascular disease in the brain.
The study found that people with white matter hyperintensities were nearly twice as likely to have mild cognitive impairment that included memory loss.
However, people who had infarcts on their brain scans were more likely to experience mild cognitive impairment in abilities other than memory loss.
"The most interesting finding in this study was that white matter hyperintensities, or ministrokes, predicted memory problems, while strokes predicted non-memory problems," said study author Dr Jose Luchsinger, MPH, with Columbia University Medical Centre in New York.
"Traditionally, ministrokes and strokes are thought to have a common origin and to more strongly predict non-memory cognitive problems.
"There are an increasing number of studies challenging the idea that all white matter hyperintensities are similar to strokes.
"The fact that white matter hyperintensities more strongly predicted memory problems could challenge traditional views that white matter hyperintensities are milder versions of stroke that are produced only by conditions such as high blood pressure," Luchsinger added.
The study appears in print issue of Neurology(r), the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.