Brain imaging in type 2 diabetes

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014 Dec;24(12):1967-81. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2014.01.023. Epub 2014 Mar 15.


Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is associated with cognitive dysfunction and dementia. Brain imaging may provide important clues about underlying processes. This review focuses on the relationship between T2DM and brain abnormalities assessed with different imaging techniques: both structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), including diffusion tensor imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, as well as positron emission tomography and single-photon emission computed tomography. Compared to people without diabetes, people with T2DM show slightly more global brain atrophy, which increases gradually over time compared with normal aging. Moreover, vascular lesions are seen more often, particularly lacunar infarcts. The association between T2DM and white matter hyperintensities and microbleeds is less clear. T2DM has been related to diminished cerebral blood flow and cerebrovascular reactivity, particularly in more advanced disease. Diffusion tensor imaging is a promising technique with respect to subtle white matter involvement. Thus, brain imaging studies show that T2DM is associated with both degenerative and vascular brain damage, which develops slowly over the course of many years. The challenge for future studies will be to further unravel the etiology of brain damage in T2DM, and to identify subgroups of patients that will develop distinct progressive brain damage and cognitive decline.

Keywords: Brain atrophy; Brain imaging; Cerebral blood flow; Diffusion tensor imaging; Magnetic resonance imaging; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / complications
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / pathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Neuroimaging*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon