The Feasibility of Detecting Neuropsychologic and Neuroanatomic Effects of Type 1 Diabetes in Young Children

  1. Bruce A. Buckingham, MD1
  1. 1Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California
  2. 2Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California
  3. 3Department of Radiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California
  4. 4Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California
  1. Corresponding author: Tandy Aye, taye{at}


OBJECTIVE To determine if frequent exposures to hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia during early childhood lead to neurocognitive deficits and changes in brain anatomy.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS In this feasibility, cross-sectional study, young children, aged 3 to 10 years, with type 1 diabetes and age- and gender-matched healthy control (HC) subjects completed neuropsychologic (NP) testing and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain.

RESULTS NP testing and MRI scanning was successfully completed in 98% of the type 1 diabetic and 93% of the HC children. A significant negative relationship between HbA1c and Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) verbal comprehension was observed. WISC index scores were significantly reduced in type 1 diabetic subjects who had experienced seizures. White matter volume did not show the expected increase with age in children with type 1 diabetes compared with HC children (diagnosis by age interaction, P = 0.005). A similar trend was detected for hippocampal volume. Children with type 1 diabetes who had experienced seizures showed significantly reduced gray matter and white matter volumes relative to children with type 1 diabetes who had not experienced seizures.

CONCLUSIONS It is feasible to perform MRI and NP testing in young children with type 1 diabetes. Further, early signs of neuroanatomic variation may be present in this population. Larger cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of neurocognitive function and neuroanatomy are needed to define the effect of type 1 diabetes on the developing brain.

  • Received November 17, 2010.
  • Accepted March 25, 2011.

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