OBJECTIVELong-term diabetes leads to severe peripheral, autonomous, and central neuropathy in combination with clinical gastrointestinal symptoms. The brain-gut axis thus expresses a neurophysiological profile, and heart rate variability (HRV) can be correlated with clinical gastrointestinal symptoms.RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODSFifteen healthy volunteers and 15 diabetic patients (12 with type 1 diabetes) with severe gastrointestinal symptoms and clinical suspicion of autonomic neuropathy were included. Psychophysics and evoked brain potentials were assessed after painful rectosigmoid electrostimulations, and brain activity was modeled by brain electrical source analysis. Self-reported gastrointestinal symptoms (per the Patient Assessment of Upper Gastrointestinal Disorder Severity Symptom Index) and quality of life (per short-form health survey with 36 questions) were collected.RESULTSDiabetic patients had autonomous neuropathy, evidenced by decreased electrocardiographic R-R interval (P = 0.03) and lower HRV (P = 0.008). Patients were less sensitive to painful stimulation (P = 0.007), had prolonged latencies of evoked potentials (P ≤ 0.001), and showed diminished amplitude of the N2-P2 component in evoked potentials (P = 0.01). There was a caudoanterior shift of the insular brain source (P = 0.01) and an anterior shift of the cingulate generator (P = 0.01). Insular source location was associated with HRV assessments (all P < 0.02), and the shift (expressed in mm) correlated negatively with physical health (P < 0.001) and positively with nausea (P = 0.03) and postprandial fullness (P = 0.03). Cingulate source shift was correlated negatively with physical health (P = 0.005) and positively with postprandial fullness (P ≤ 0.001).CONCLUSIONSThis study provides evidence for interaction between autonomic neuropathy and peripheral nervous degeneration, as well as changes in dipole sources in diabetic patients with gastrointestinal symptoms. The findings may lead to improved treatment modalities targeting pharmacological neuroprotection or neuromodulation.
Diabetes Care, 2013, Vol 36, Issue 11, p. 3698-3705