Periventricular white matter refers to white matter that is immediately to the side of the two lateral (side) ventricles of the brain. This is shown in the second picture below. The lateral ventricles are two curved openings (shaped like a horseshoe) located deep within the top section of the brain. White matter is a group of white nerve fibers that conduct nerve impulses quickly. White matter is important for muscle movements.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT AREAS OF PERIVENTRICULAR WHITE MATTER? Yes. Periventrivcular white matter is categorized based on which lobe (section) of the brain that it is located. There are the four main lobes of the brain, the frontal lobes, occipital lobes, temporal lobes, and parietal lobes. The frontal lobes are located in the front of the brain and the occipital lobes are located in the back of the brain. The temporal lobes are located on the sides of the brain behind the ears. The parietal lobe is the middle area of the top part of the brain.
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Periventricular white matter located near the frontal lobes is called frontal periventricular white matter. Periventricular white matter located near the occipital lobes is called occipital periventricular white matter. Periventricular white matter located near the temporal lobes is called temporal periventricular white matter. Periventricular white matter located near the parietal lobes is called parietal periventricular white matter.
WHERE ARE THE VENTRICLES LOCATED?
As can be seen in the picture blow, the ventricles are locate throughout the brain and they are all connected. This is a view from the side of the brain looking inwards:
WHAT ARE PERIVENTRICULAR WHITE MATTER CHANGES? Periventricular white matter changes means that there has been some change in the structure of the white matter near the ventricles of the brain. This finding does not necessarily mean that something serious, like a disease, has caused it. In fact, the most common cause of periventricular white matter changes is normal aging that is not associated with a disease process.
In premature infants (babies born too early), however, the periventricular white matter is a common area of damage when an event happens that causes a lack of oxygen to the brain. Periventricular white matter changes in premature infants typically occurs near the collateral trigone. The collateral trigone is a triangle-shaped prominence on the floor of the lateral ventricle.
In people over age 65, research has shown that periventricular white matter changes are found between 30% and 80% of the time when an MRI scan of the brain is performed. MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRI scans produce extremely detailed pictures of the inside of the body by using very powerful magnets and computer technology.
Possible causes of periventricular white matter changes include Binswanger's disease, stroke, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, and CADASIL (Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Subcortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy). Each of these terms are described below.
Binswanger's disease is a type of dementia in which white matter below the cortex (the top, main section of the brain) wears away and becomes thinner. Dementia is a mental disorder characterized by a significant loss of intellectual and cognitive abilities without impairment of perception or consciousness. A stroke is a burst artery (a type of blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart) or a blockage of an artery in the brain. A migraine headache is a painful and continuous type of headache that is so painful that it prevents people who experience them from doing anything. Multiple sclerosis is a condition in which multiple areas of abnormal patches (known as plaques) develop in the brain and/or spinal cord. ICADASIL is a rare, inherited disease starting in mid-adulthood that causes abnormal changes to many small arteries in the brain.
People with periventricular white matter changes usually perform in the low average range or worse on tests of psychomotor speed. In general, however, periventricular white matter changes are not associated with any particular set of symptoms. Thus, one cannot be sure that a patient's difficulty walking or other problems are caused by periventricular white matter changes.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM, PERIVENTRICULAR WHITE MATTER?
Periventricular white matter comes from the Greek word "peri" meaning "around," the Latin word "venter" meaning "belly," the Proto-Indo-European word "kwintos" meaning "bright," and the Latin word "materies" meaning "substance." Put the words together and you have "bright substance around (the) belly."