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Alterations in Brain Structures in Type 1 Diabetes

In a study of people who have had type 1 diabetes for many years, researchers found structural alterations in regions of the brain involved in cognition and voluntary muscle movement—results that provide much-needed new insights into how the disease affects the brain. In type 1 diabetes, the complications to organs such as the heart, kidney, and central nervous system are associated with elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels and episodes of low blood glucose levels. Although the risk of impairment to the central nervous system in type 1 diabetes is not completely understood, several studies have reported subtle differences in cognitive ability between people with and without the disease.

To address the question of how type 1 diabetes may effect brain structure, the researchers analyzed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of 61 women and men with long-duration (average 21 years) disease compared to a control group of 54 women and men of similar ages who did not have type 1 diabetes. They found significant structural differences in several brain regions (e.g., striatum, thalamus, and mesial temporal cortex) between those with the disease and the control group. These brain regions are largely associated with cognition and motor functions. The findings of this study identify structural brain alterations in people with long-duration type 1 diabetes. Future studies could assess whether such changes in the brain correlate with differences in cognition, or other functions, and pave the way toward a longer-term goal of identifying ways to intervene and protect the brain.

Filip P, Canna A, Moheet A,…Mangia S. Structural alterations in deep brain structures in type 1 diabetes. Diabetes 69: 2458-2466, 2020.

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