Effect of diabetes on brain structure: The action to control cardiovascular risk in diabetes MR imaging baseline data

R. Nick Bryan, Michel Bilello, Christos Davatzikos, Ronald M. Lazar, Anne Murray, Karen Horowitz, James Lovato, Michael E. Miller, Jeff Williamson, Lenore J. Launer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Purpose: To investigate the association of characteristics of type 2 diabetes mellitus (duration and biochemical severity of diabetes) to brain structure measured on magnetic resonance (MR) images, specifically testing whether more severity in metrics of diabetes is inversely correlated with brain volumes and positively correlated with ischemic lesion volumes. Materials and Methods: This study protocol was approved by the institutional review board of each center and participants provided written informed consent. Baseline severity of diabetes was evaluated by testing fasting plasma glucose levels, hemoglobin A1c levels, and duration of diabetes. MR imaging was performed with fluid-attenuated inversion recovery, proton-density, T2-weighted, and T1-weighted sequences, which were postprocessed with an automated computer algorithm that classified brain tissue as gray or white matter and as normal or ischemic. Separate linear regression models adjusted for potential confounding factors were used to investigate the relationship of the diabetes measures to MR imaging outcomes in 614 participants (mean age, 62 years; mean duration of type 2 diabetes mellitus, 9.9 years). Results: The mean volumes of total gray matter (463.9 cm3) and total white matter (463.6 cm3) were similar. The mean volume of abnormal tissue was 2.5 cm3, mostly in the white matter (81% white matter, 5% gray matter, 14% deep gray and white matter). Longer duration of diabetes and higher fasting plasma glucose level were associated with lower normal (β = -0.431 and -0.053, respectively; P < .01) and total gray matter volumes (β = -0.428 and -0.053, respectively; P < .01). Fasting plasma glucose was also inversely correlated with ischemic lesion volume (β = -0.006; P < .04). Hemoglobin A 1c level was not associated with any MR imaging measure. Conclusion: Longer duration of diabetes is associated with brain volume loss, particularly in the gray matter, possibly reflecting direct neurologic insult; biochemical measures of glycemia were less consistently related to MR imaging changes. Contrary to common clinical belief, in this sample of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, there was no association of diabetes characteristics with small vessel ischemic disease in the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-216
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2014


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