MRI shows that brains of persons with type 1 diabetes age faster

2019 02 20 20 38 9544 Mri Brain Head 400

MR imaging shows that the brains of individuals with type 1 diabetes age faster than their peers who do not have the condition, a study published June 1 in JAMA Network Open has found.

The study results show that different brain atrophy patterns are associated with different cognitive impairment profiles, wrote a team led by Mohamad Habes, PhD, of the University of Texas in San Antonio.

"[Our] results support the hypothesis that brain morphology is associated with an accelerating aging process in middle-aged and older-aged adults with a long history of type 1 diabetes," the group noted.

Children and young people with type 1 diabetes may develop structural and functional changes in the brain, and as these individuals age they may demonstrate declines in memory and mental efficiency tests, as well as smaller gray-matter volumes, the investigators wrote.

But whether these changes lead to conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or premature brain imaging has been unclear. Using brain MR imaging results and data from the Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (EDIC) study -- which has tracked brain regions associated with the most significant changes in patients with type 1 diabetes and assessed any associations between cognition and brain aging indicators -- the researchers evaluated neuroimaging markers of brain age and Alzheimer's-like atrophy in patients with type 1 diabetes.

The study included 416 EDIC participants and 99 adults with comparable demographics but without diabetes who underwent brain MRI exams between 2018 and 2019. Median duration of having diabetes was 37 years. The group compared the MRI data between the two groups using the beta coefficient (with higher values indicating more risk).

Habes and colleagues found that the EDIC group had a higher brain age by 6 years compared with the control cohort but that the two groups were comparable when it came to signs of Alzheimer's.

Brain aging in patients with type 1 diabetes (measured by the beta coefficient; higher values indicate higher risk)
Complication Participants without type 1 diabetes Participants with type 1 diabetes
Brain age 1.04 6.16

They also found that greater brain age was centered in the bilateral thalamus and putamen among those with diabetes and was associated with "lower psychomotor and mental efficiency" compared to those without the disease.

"[Our] findings suggest that individuals with type 1 diabetes have advanced brain aging without any early signs of Alzheimer's disease-related neurodegeneration compared to those without type 1 diabetes," the researchers concluded.

The complete study can be found here.

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