A new study, published in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine by the University of Pittsburgh, has revealed that people who were diagnosed at an earlier age with type I diabetes had weaker brain connectivity.
The research participants consisted of sixty-six middle-aged adults (ages 32 to 58) who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before the age of 18 and who were enrolled in the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications Study, documenting long-term complications of type 1 diabetes among patients at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC between 1950 and 1980. The study is one of the first to follow type I diabetes throughout their life.
The scientists tested eight functional brain networks by testing resting state blood oxygen level dependent activity and a multivariate analysis of variance examined associations between age of onset and network connectivity.
The research findings revealed that later onset of type I diabetes was associated with lower connectivity. Lower connectivity was associated with older age, increased white-matter hyperintensity volume, and lower microstructural integrity.
“Other studies have shown an association between earlier onset type 1 diabetes and cognitive difficulties, so we expected to find that people with earlier age of onset would have weaker connections between brain regions,” said John Ryan, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Pitt. “But instead, we found that those who were diagnosed later in childhood had the weaker brain connections as they aged.”
“Due to advances in treatments, people with type 1 diabetes are living longer. But we don’t yet understand how diabetes and aging interact in the brain,” Dr. Ryan said.
“The mechanisms underlying these associations are not yet clear,” he said. “However, the relationships between age of diagnosis and connectivity was stronger in older participants, supporting a model of diabetes as accelerated aging.”