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Study using new imaging technology detects subtle brain changes in patients with Type 1 diabetes

Although people with diabetes are twice as likely as the general population to develop depression, the cause of this increased risk is not well understood. Now, a Joslin Diabetes Center-led collaboration has documented for the first time subtle changes in the gray matter of the brain of type 1 diabetes patients compared to control subjects who did not have diabetes. They made these observations using voxel-based morphometry (VBM), a relatively new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology that allows researchers to take very sensitive measurements of small regions in the brain. For the first time, doctors have reason to ask if the increased risk of depression could in fact be due to changes in brain.

"We have known for a long time that diabetes can damage the nerves that control the extremities and those that control internal organs like the heart and the intestine," says the study's principal investigator, Alan M. Jacobson, M.D., head of Behavioral and Mental Health Research at Joslin Diabetes Center. "This research helps document diabetes-related changes to the central nervous system. People tended to assume that the stress of dealing with a severe chronic illness and its complications was the sole source of depression. That still is an important issue, but now we have evidence that something else might be at work."

Equally important, by showing the effectiveness of VBM for observing and evaluating changes in brain structure that appear to be related to diabetes, the study opens up whole new approaches to understanding the central nervous system in diabetes. This technology creates three-dimensional images of magnetic resonance imaging data, which researchers can then use to observe and evaluate structural changes, in this case, in the brain.

"We've used this technology to look at patients with bipolar disorder or with classic neurodegenerative disorders, but this is the first study to use VBM to investigate brain changes in patients w
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Contact: Marjorie Dwyer
marjorie.dwyer@joslin.harvard.edu
617-732-2415
Joslin Diabetes Center
31-Jan-2006


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