Scientists have identified differences in brain patterns of people with type 1 diabetes which could have implications for future treatments.
The findings could also explain why type 1 diabetes affects the brain during cognitive activity, and revealed that in some cases the brain adapts to prevent cognitive impairment.
Researchers from the University of Barcelona used neuroimaging techniques to examine brain patterns of 22 people with type 1 diabetes compared to 16 healthy matched controls. The participants then completed a series of tasks.
The series of memory tasks comprised tests of verbal and visual stimuli, such as differentiating white and red squares positioned around a fixed point on a black background. All the while researchers measured brain activity and examined changes in blood flow depending on the areas of the brain with 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,” said lead author Joan Guardia-Olmos.
The type 1 diabetes cohort exhibited poorer cognitive performance in the task with verbal stimuli, and the researchers hypothesise this was due to the autoimmune disease.
“These different activation patterns could be due to adaptive compensation mechanisms that are devoted to improving efficiency while solving more complex cognitive tasks,” said the researchers.
They add the changes in brain activation patterns could be caused by the lack of insulin, and state that further research should seek to validate and understand these findings.
“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,” added Guardia-Olmos.
The study was published in the PLOS One journal.

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