Age of type 1 diabetes onset in children might be linked to cognitive decline later in life

Children who are at least 8 years old when they develop type 1 diabetes may show weaker brain connectivity later in life, according to new research from the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.

Late childhood and early adolescence is a time when the brain is maturing rapidly and connections are being made for different functions, said John Ryan, Ph.D., assistant professor or psychiatry at Pitt.

"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," he noted.

Diagnosis could be early indicator of cognitive impairment

The study included children of the same sex and age who were enrolled in the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications Study, which is an ongoing research project that aims to analyze the long-term complications associated with type 1 diabetes. Half the participants had onset of type 1 diabetes before the age of 8, while the other half were diagnosed after this age.

The brain abnormalities seen in children who had type 1 diabetes onset after the age of 8 resembled those seem in older adult patients without diabetes, said the senior author of the study, Caterina Rosano, M.D., MPH.

"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," Rosano said.

Identification and prevention key

Ryan said the study findings were just a "snapshot" from one point in time and that repeated brain scans over the next several years will reveal more about how cognitive function develops or declines in these children.

According to Rosano, spotting cognitive abnormalities early on will be the key to allowing diabetic children the best possible chance at having healthy brain function well into adulthood.

"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," she concluded.

Source: Science Daily

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