Institute of Complex Systems
Universitat de Barcelona
Institute of Complex Systems
Universitat de Barcelona
Institute of Complex Systems
Universitat de Barcelona

Researchers find functional change in brains of patients with type 1 diabetes

Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and the Institute of Complex Systems ( UBICS ) of the University of Barcelona have identified differences in the pattern of the neurofunctional activation in patients with type 1 diabetes. The study, conducted with neuroimaging techniques, represents an important step towards the understanding of how T1D can affect the brain during the cognitive activity and could have implications in the treatment for people who suffer from this metabolic disease. T1D is a chronic disease caused by a lack of insulin, an hormone that controls the sugar in blood. This type of diabetes forces patients to take insulin daily and it is an important cause for blindness, renal impairment and myocardial infarct, among other complications.

The study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE has the participation of Joan Guàrdia and Maribel Peró-Cebollero, from the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Barcelona, Geisa Gallardo and Andrés González from the University of Guadalajara (Mexico), and Esteve Gudayol from the Michoacan University of Saint Nicholas of Hidalgo (Mexico).

Changes in brain activity

The new study has explored –using functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques (fMRi)- the neuronal activation pattern in 22 patients with type 1 diabetes and a control group of 16 healthy people while they conducted memory tasks with verbal and visual stimuli. This neuroimaging technique measures the brain activity during the activities with which the changes in blood flow occur in the brain depending on the areas with a higher energy use.

“The behavioural response to the tasks in the experiment was almost the same in both groups, but brain activity was different and T1D patients showed a lower cortical activation than those in controlled groups”, says Joan Guàrdia.

Adaptation to balance cognitive dysfunction

These results support the idea that T1D has an impact on brain activity and at the same time, tempos show that in some circumstances, the brain of these patients develops adaptations to prevent cognitive impairments.

“Activations in the observed right inferior frontal area, the cerebellum and the putamen in T1D patients can be an adaptive response to reach the same behavior performance level than those in healthy patients” says Joan Guàrdia.

According to the researchers, these changes in the brain activation pattern could be neuroplastic adaptations to the glucose deregulation caused by the lack of insulin.

“If these results are confirmed, it is important to design maintenance programs on maintenance of cognitive activity for people with this disease, an approach which is not very common at the moment”, concludes the researcher.

Article reference:

J. Guàrdia-Olmos, G. B. Gallardo-Moreno, E. Gudayol-Ferré, M. Peró-Cebollero i A. A. González-Garrido. «Effect of verbal task complexity in a working memory paradigm in patients with type 1 diabetes. A fMRI study». PLOS ONE, June 2017. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178172

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