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Diabetes in teens affects grey matter volume, says study


Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found that type 2 diabetes can cause significant changes in the grey matter volume in regions of the brain associated with seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making and self-control.

Researchers discovered that these teens have six regions with significantly less grey matter, and three with more. They found a relationship between less grey matter volume in the brain and the ability to pronounce and sound out unfamiliar words.

“Previous studies suggested that youth with type 2 diabetes have changes in brain structure and poorer cognitive function scores compared to their peers,” said Amy Sanghavi Shah, a physician-scientist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in the US. “Total and regional brain volume had not been assessed comprehensively until now. We also sought to determine if the findings we found here could explain poorer cognitive scores,” said Shah.

The researchers studied 20 teens with type 2 diabetes and compared them to 20 teens without type 2 who were similar in age, race and sex. All participants in the study had high-resolution MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging). Neither group had prior neurological or psychological disease or prior abnormal MRIs.

“We don’t know if the changes we found are the direct result of diabetes, but studies in adults with type 2 diabetes with longer duration of disease also show brain volume differences, brain vascular changes and cognitive decline,” said Jacob Redel, from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“However, our findings suggest that preventing type 2 diabetes in adolescents is important to prevent possible complications in the future,” Redel said.

The researchers are considering another study adding participants who are obese without type 2 diabetes and a larger number of participants. This would allow them to examine whether differences found on MRI are more related to obesity or high blood sugar seen in diabetes and test whether other cognitive domains, such as memory, language, intellect and attention, are affected by brain volume differences.

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