Children and adolescents older than 8 years when diagnosed with type 1 diabetes showed weaker brain activity later in life compared with those diagnosed earlier in life, according to findings presented by University of Pittsburgh Schools of Health Sciences researchers at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.
"Adolescence is a time when the brain matures and makes connections in networks responsible for different functions," John Ryan, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, said in a press release. "Further study is needed to determine if and how the onset of type 1 diabetes shortly before or during puberty affects brain function and how better control of the disease at that important time could yield changes in brain function later in life."
Participants were chosen from a subsample of the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications cohort of 44 adult participants with childhood-onset (before age 17 years) type 1 diabetes. Participants were divided into two groups: those younger than 8 years at diabetes onset (early onset) and those diagnosed between age 8 and 17 years (late onset). The sample group comprised 24 men, and the average age of participants was 43.4 years.
Researchers collected resting-state functional MRI data and calculated a mean connectivity value for eight resting-state networks. Differences in network connectivity between the groups were calculated using a multivariate analysis of variance.
Stronger network connectivity was seen in participants who were diagnosed earlier in life vs. those diagnosed later (P<.01). The dorsal default mode network (P<.05) and the right executive control network (P<.01) were shown to have significant between-group differences; early age of onset was associated with stronger connectivity in both networks, according to researchers.
"The fact that adults with type 1 diabetes are now living longer than ever is certainly a success of treatment advancements, but it also presents an urgent public health problem," Caterina Rosano, MD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, said in a press release. "A striking feature of these patients is that they develop brain abnormalities similar to those observed in much older adults without diabetes. It is very possible that older age may amplify the progression of brain abnormalities and possibly lead to a faster cognitive decline than what would be observed because of age alone. We need to rapidly identify and prevent the characteristics of this accelerated brain aging in type 1 diabetics if we want to ensure the highest quality of life for these patients."
Further research is needed to better understand the longitudinal and cognitive implications of stronger network connectivity among those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before aged 8 years, the researchers wrote.
For more information:
Ryan JP. Early age of onset of type 1 diabetes is associated with increased functional brain connectivity. Presented at: the 72nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society; March 12-15, 2014; San Francisco.
Disclosure: Endocrine Today could not confirm disclosures at the time of publication.