The association between white matter changes and activities of daily living (ADL) in a large, well-defined cohort of patients with mild-to-moderate dementia (either Alzheimer’s disease or subcortical vascular dementia) were investigated. A total of 289 patients were divided into three groups (140 mild, 99 moderate, and 50 severe) depending on the degree of white matter changes as indicated on brain magnetic resonance image scans. Further, we analyzed the three groups’ performances on basic and instrumental ADL. The degree of white matter changes was associated with greater age, hypertension, previous history of stroke, higher Hachinski Ischemic Score, worse global cognitive and functional status, and an increased impairment of basic ADL and instrumental ADL. The increased impairment with regard to the severe group’s performance on both the basic and instrumental ADL remained significant after adjustment for age and hypertension. Tasks involving physical activities were most significant. This was the first study investigating the association between white matter changes and ADL in a large, well-defined dementia cohort. The present study suggests that severe white matter changes may be associated with higher impairment on both basic and instrumental ADL.

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