BACKGROUND: Isolated, subtle neurological abnormalities (ISNA) are commonly seen in aging and have been related to cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) and subcortical atrophy in neurologically and cognitively healthy aging subjects. OBJECTIVE: To investigate the frequency of ISNA in different mild cognitive impairment (MCI) types and to evaluate for each MCI type, the cross-sectional relation between ISNA and white matter hyperintensities (WMH), lacunes, caudate atrophy, and ventricular enlargement. METHODS: One thousand two hundred fifty subjects with different MCI types were included in the analysis and underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging. WMHs were assessed through two visual rating scales. Lacunes were also rated. Atrophy of the caudate nuclei and ventricular enlargement were assessed through the bicaudate ratio (BCr) and the lateral ventricles to brain ratio (LVBr), respectively. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotypes were also assessed. The routine neurological examination was used to evaluate ISNAs that were clustered as central-based signs, cerebellar-based signs, and primitive reflexes. The items of Part-III of the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale were used to evaluate ISNAs that were clustered as mild parkinsonian signs. Associations of ISNAs with imaging findings were determined through logistic regression analysis. RESULTS: The ISNAs increase with the age and are present in all MCI types, particularly in those multiple domains, and carrying the APOE ϵ4 allele, and are associated with WMH, lacunes, BCr, and LVBr. CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that cortical and subcortical vascular and atrophic processes contribute to ISNAs. Long prospective population-based studies are needed to disentangle the role of ISNAs in the conversion from MCI to dementia.
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