Age-related brain white matter disease is a form of small vessel disease (SVD) that may be associated with lacunar and other small subcortical infarcts, cerebral microbleeds, and perivascular spaces. This common form of cerebrovascular disease may manifest clinically as cognitive impairment of varying degrees and difficulty with mobility. Whereas some persons show cognitive decline and mobility failure when there are brain white matter hyperintensities (WMH) and acute stroke, others recover, and not everyone with brain white matter disease is disabled. Thus, repair or compensation of brain white matter may be possible, and furthermore, certain vascular risks, such as raised blood pressure, are targets for prevention of white matter disease or are administered to reduce the burden of such disease. Vascular risk modification may be useful, but alone may not be sufficient to prevent white matter disease progression. In this chapter, we specifically focus on WMH of vascular origin and explore white matter development, plasticity, and enduring processes of myelination across the health span in the context of experimental and human data, and compare and contrast resilient brain white matter propensity to a diseased white matter state. We conclude with thoughts on novel ways one might study white matter resilience, and predict future healthy cognitive and functional outcomes.
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