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Patterns of Regional Brain Atrophy and Brain Aging in Middle- and Older-Aged Adults With Type 1 Diabetes.

JAMA Network Open 2023 June 2
IMPORTANCE: Little is known about structural brain changes in type 1 diabetes (T1D) and whether there are early manifestations of a neurodegenerative condition like Alzheimer disease (AD) or evidence of premature brain aging.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate neuroimaging markers of brain age and AD-like atrophy in participants with T1D in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT)/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (EDIC) study, identify which brain regions are associated with the greatest changes in patients with T1D, and assess the association between cognition and brain aging indices.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This cohort study leveraged data collected during the combined DCCT (randomized clinical trial, 1983-1993) and EDIC (observational study, 1994 to present) studies at 27 clinical centers in the US and Canada. A total of 416 eligible EDIC participants and 99 demographically similar adults without diabetes were enrolled in the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) ancillary study, which reports cross-sectional data collected in 2018 to 2019 and relates it to factors measured longitudinally in DCCT/EDIC. Data analyses were performed between July 2020 and April 2022.

EXPOSURE: T1D diagnosis.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Psychomotor and mental efficiency were evaluated using verbal fluency, digit symbol substitution test, trail making part B, and the grooved pegboard. Immediate memory scores were derived from the logical memory subtest of the Wechsler memory scale and the Wechsler digit symbol substitution test. MRI and machine learning indices were calculated to predict brain age and quantify AD-like atrophy.

RESULTS: This study included 416 EDIC participants with a median (range) age of 60 (44-74) years (87 of 416 [21%] were older than 65 years) and a median (range) diabetes duration of 37 (30-51) years. EDIC participants had consistently higher brain age values compared with controls without diabetes, indicative of approximately 6 additional years of brain aging (EDIC participants: β, 6.16; SE, 0.71; control participants: β, 1.04; SE, 0.04; P < .001). In contrast, AD regional atrophy was comparable between the 2 groups. Regions with atrophy in EDIC participants vs controls were observed mainly in the bilateral thalamus and putamen. Greater brain age was associated with lower psychomotor and mental efficiency among EDIC participants (β, -0.04; SE, 0.01; P < .001), but not among controls.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: The findings of this study suggest an increase in brain aging among individuals with T1D without any early signs of AD-related neurodegeneration. These increases were associated with reduced cognitive performance, but overall, the abnormal patterns seen in this sample were modest, even after a mean of 38 years with T1D.

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