This study aimed to determine whether white matter lesions, previously described as a frequent feature in myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), aggregate within DM1 families or are sporadic findings, and to explore the relationship between these lesions and clinical or genetic features. Brain MRI of 60 DM1 patients belonging to 22 families were evaluated and white matter lesions were rated according to a semiquantitative method. Presence and extent of lobar, temporal or periventricular lesions showed a significant association with the family history of lesions and the disease duration, and no association with the CTG repeat size. Furthermore, parent-offspring and sibling pairs showed a significant positive concordance for lesion severity. White matter lesions demonstrate familial aggregation in DM1 and no relationship with CTG repeat length. These findings suggest that other genetic causes and/or unknown environmental factors influence the occurrence and severity of lesions in patients carrying the DM1 genetic defect. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.