Miracle Ozzoude, Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases
Brenda Varriano, Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases
Derek Beaton, Rotman Research Institute
Joel Ramirez, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Melissa F. Holmes, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Christopher J.M. Scott, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Fuqiang Gao, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Kelly M. Sunderland, Rotman Research Institute
Paula McLaughlin, Dalhousie University
Jennifer Rabin, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Maged Goubran, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Donna Kwan, Queen's University, Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Kingston
Angela Roberts, Northwestern University
Robert Bartha, Robarts Research Institute
Sean Symons, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Brian Tan, Rotman Research Institute
Richard H. Swartz, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Agessandro Abrahao, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Gustavo Saposnik, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute
Mario Masellis, University of Toronto
Anthony E. Lang, University of Toronto
Connie Marras, University of Toronto
Lorne Zinman, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Christen Shoesmith, Western University
Michael Borrie, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Corinne E. Fischer, Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science
Andrew Frank, Université d'Ottawa, Faculté de Médecine
Morris Freedman, Rotman Research Institute
Manuel Montero-Odasso, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Sanjeev Kumar, University of Toronto
Elizabeth Finger, Western UniversityFollow

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Change in empathy is an increasingly recognised symptom of neurodegenerative diseases and contributes to caregiver burden and patient distress. Empathy impairment has been associated with brain atrophy but its relationship to white matter hyperintensities (WMH) is unknown. We aimed to investigate the relationships amongst WMH, brain atrophy, and empathy deficits in neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases. Five hundred thirteen participants with Alzheimer’s disease/mild cognitive impairment, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, frontotemporal dementia (FTD), Parkinson’s disease, or cerebrovascular disease (CVD) were included. Empathy was assessed using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index. WMH were measured using a semi-automatic segmentation and FreeSurfer was used to measure cortical thickness. A heterogeneous pattern of cortical thinning was found between groups, with FTD showing thinning in frontotemporal regions and CVD in left superior parietal, left insula, and left postcentral. Results from both univariate and multivariate analyses revealed that several variables were associated with empathy, particularly cortical thickness in the fronto-insulo-temporal and cingulate regions, sex (female), global cognition, and right parietal and occipital WMH. Our results suggest that cortical atrophy and WMH may be associated with empathy deficits in neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases. Future work should consider investigating the longitudinal effects of WMH and atrophy on empathy deficits in neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases.