A new study has indicated that brains of people with type 1 diabetes show signs of accelerated aging that correlate with slower information processing.
The study conducted at University of Pittsburgh Schools indicates that clinicians should consider screening middle-aged patients with type 1 diabetes for cognitive difficulties.
Senior author Dr. Caterina Rosano, associate professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology, said that severity of cognitive complications and cerebral small vessel disease which can starve the brain of oxygen is much more intense than they expected, but it can be measured in a clinical setting.
The people with type 1 diabetes were all participants in the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications Study.
The MRIs showed that 33 percent of the people with type 1 diabetes had moderate to severe levels of white matter hyperintensities (markers of damage to the brain's white matter, present in normal aging and neurological disorders) compared with 7 percent of their non-diabetic counterparts.
On three cognitive tests that measure abilities such as information-processing speed, manual dexterity and verbal intelligence, the people with type 1 diabetes averaged lower scores than those without the condition.
Among only the participants with type 1 diabetes, those with greater volumes of white matter hyperintensities averaged lower cognitive scores than those with smaller volumes, though the difference was less pronounced.
Lead author Karen A. Nunley, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in Pitt Public Health's neuroepidemiology program said that people with type 1 diabetes were living longer than ever before, and the incidence of type 1 diabetes was increasing annually.
The research will be published in the May 19 issue of the journal Neurology.