Microstructural abnormalities in white and gray matter in obese adolescents with and without type 2 diabetes

Arie Nouwen, Alison Chambers, Magdalena Chechlacz, Suzanne Higgs, Jacqueline Blissett, Timothy G. Barrett, Harriet A. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In adults, type 2 diabetes and obesity have been associated with structural brain changes, even in the absence of dementia. Some evidence suggested similar changes in adolescents with type 2 diabetes but comparisons with a non-obese control group have been lacking. The aim of the current study was to examine differences in microstructure of gray and white matter between adolescents with type 2 diabetes, obese adolescents and healthy weight adolescents.

Magnetic resonance imaging data were collected from 15 adolescents with type 2 diabetes, 21 obese adolescents and 22 healthy weight controls. Volumetric differences in the gray matter between the three groups were examined using voxel based morphology, while tract based spatial statistics was used to examine differences in the microstructure of the white matter.

Adolescents with type 2 diabetes and obese adolescents had reduced gray matter volume in the right hippocampus, left putamen and caudate, bilateral amygdala and left thalamus compared to healthy weight controls. Type 2 diabetes was also associated with significant regional changes in fractional anisotropy within the corpus callosum, fornix, left inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, left uncinate, left internal and external capsule. Fractional anisotropy reductions within these tracts were explained by increased radial diffusivity, which may suggest demyelination of white matter tracts. Mean diffusivity and axial diffusivity did not differ between the groups.

Our data shows that adolescent obesity alone results in reduced gray matter volume and that adolescent type 2 diabetes is associated with both white and gray matter abnormalities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-51
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Early online date5 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/BY/4.0/).

Funding: European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes / Novo Nordisk European Clinical Research Programme in Adolescents with Type 2 diabetes mellitus


  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • White matter
  • Gray matter
  • Demyelination


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