Public Release: 

New research shows impact of Crohn's disease on brain function

SAGE

(Vienna, 24 August 2016) New research published in the UEG Journal1 has found that Crohn's disease sufferers experience slower response times than matched individuals that do not have the disease.

In a study of patients with Crohn's disease, cognitive response times were 10% slower than normal and significantly correlated with symptoms of active inflammation, including abdominal pain and fatigue. Notably, the response times in Crohn's patients were slower than those assessed in people over the legal drink drive limit in most EU countries (blood alcohol content above 0.05 g/100ml) when assessed with the same computer-based cognitive test in a similar study by the same group.

The results demonstrate the presence of mild cognitive impairment in Crohn's patients and support patients' frequent complaints of difficulties in concentration, clouding of thought and memory lapses. The study also demonstrated that Crohn's patients had a higher median depression score and a poorer rating of sleep quality, which were associated with more severe cognitive impairment.

Crohn's disease, one of the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) alongside ulcerative colitis, has seen a sharp increase throughout much of Europe in recent decades with higher incidence levels documented in northern and western parts of the continent2. The disease can be extremely debilitating for patients and there is no solitary cause, although it is thought to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

As well as the recognised bowel-related symptoms of Crohn's disease such as abdominal pain and diarrhoea, the condition has now also been shown to impact cognitive function. Patients frequently experience cognitive symptoms, yet these symptoms are often ignored by clinicians. Dr Daniel van Langenberg, the lead researcher behind the findings, comments, "These results reinforce the notion that Crohn's has a wide range of multi-systemic consequences with the impact of the disease affecting patients not only within but well beyond the digestive tract."

Dr van Langenberg adds, "The findings appear consistent with experiments that have shown that bowel inflammation results in an upregulation of inflammatory hippocampus activity in the brain. This, in turn, might account for the slower response times that were observed in the study."

Professor Gigi Veereman, UEG inflammatory bowel disease expert, comments "This research highlights the need for regular interventions with multi-disciplinary IBD teams to address the wide issues that are presented with Crohn's disease. This will enable a greater understanding of this complex condition and therefore improve the service and care offered to each patient."

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Access the research in the UEG Journal

Notes to Editors

About UEG

UEG, or United European Gastroenterology, is a professional non-profit organisation combining all the leading European societies concerned with digestive diseases. Together, its member societies represent over 22,000 specialists, working across medicine, surgery, paediatrics, gastrointestinal oncology and endoscopy. This makes UEG the most comprehensive organisation of its kind in the world, and a unique platform for collaboration and the exchange of knowledge. Find out more by visiting http://www.ueg.eu

To advance standards of gastroenterological care and knowledge across Europe and the world, UEG offers numerous activities and initiatives, including:

  • UEG Week, the biggest congress of its kind in Europe, and one of the two largest in the world
  • UEG Education, the universal source of knowledge in gastroenterology, providing online and classroom courses, a huge online library and delivering the latest GI news, fostering debate and discussion
  • Training Support, funding for innovative training and educational programmes, as well as international scientific and professional co-operations
  • UEG Journal, published bi-monthly, covering translational and clinical studies from all areas of gastroenterology
  • EU Affairs, promoting research, prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of digestive diseases, and helping develop an effective health policy for Europe

About Dr van Langenberg

Dr Daniel van Langenberg is the Head of IBD Service, Eastern Health and a Senior Lecturer at Monash University in Victoria, Australia. He is involved with clinical and research activities with specific interest and expertise in inflammatory bowel disease and function gastrointestinal disorders.

About Professor Gigi Veereman

Professor Gigi Veereman is a member of the UEG Public Affairs Committee and Secretary General of the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN).

References

1. van Langenberg DR, Yelland GW, Robinson SR, Gibson PR. Cognitive impairment in Crohn's disease is associated with systemic inflammation, symptom burden and sleep disturbance. UEG Journal. August 2016: http://ueg.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/08/07/2050640616663397.full.pdf+html

2. Roberts SE, Samuel DG, Williams JG, et al. Survey of Digestive Health across Europe. Part one: The burden of gastrointestinal diseases and the organisation and delivery of gastroenterology services across Europe. Report for United European Gastroenterology. October 2014: http://ueg.sagepub.com/content/suppl/2014/10/13/2050640614554154.DC1/Full_Survey.pdf

UEG Survey of Digestive Health - Incidence of Crohn's Disease Across Europe

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