Toxic goiter affects the brain more than previously known, according to a study from the University of Gothenburg, and involves volume changes occurring in central parts of the brain. These results are described as a major breakthrough for a vulnerable group of patients.
Toxic goiter, or hyperthyroidism, is a relatively common condition. Its incidence increases with age and most of those who suffer from it are women. Hyperthyroidism is characterized by excessive production of hormones in the thyroid gland, which speeds up the metabolism and speeds up the functioning of many processes. Sweating, palpitations and fatigue are common symptoms. Thyroid disorders have long been known to cause physical and mental symptoms. Previously, these symptoms were thought to be associated only with abnormal hormone levels. Now, however, researchers from Gothenburg University and Sahlgrenska University Hospital are discovering physiological brain changes in hyperthyroidism. The patient base for the current study included 62 women recently diagnosed with Graves’ disease, the most common form of hyperthyroidism. The women underwent various investigations and, after treatment, 48 of them were followed for a fixed period of 15 months. The results were compared with those of a group with normal thyroid function who were examined at corresponding intervals.
Mental symptoms and MRI examination
“Each participant underwent an in-depth investigation of mental symptoms and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, with particular focus on the central parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus and amygdala – areas that we know are often implicated in impaired cognitive function in other medical conditions,” says Mats Holmberg, chief medical officer and endocrinology researcher, who is the study’s lead author. What the scientists show in their study, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, is that the central parts of the brain shrink when hormone levels are high, and these parts largely return to normal size when hormone levels normalize and symptoms resolve. Helena Filipsson Nyström, Associate Professor of Endocrinology at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Chief Physician at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and Head of CogThy, the study that forms the basis of this publication. “The fact that we can now show that the brain is actually affected is very important for the future. For decades, patients in our group have testified that they don’t feel like they’ve recovered, and we hope our study will provide further clues to what’s going on in the brain,” says Filipsson Nyström. .
Other publications to come
“The simple fact that we can say that Graves’ disease affects the brain represents several major advances. First of all, it is important for patients that research is ongoing in this area because it has been overlooked for so long. Secondly, it also translates into new studies of what happens in the brain in toxic goiter,” says Filipsson Nyström. His colleague Mats Holmberg, Ph.D., of the University of Gothenburg, who also works at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital, also points out that multiple questions remain. “These are the first results of our study, and they will be followed by several publications with both additional data from the magnetic camera part of the study, a survey of the symptoms shown and a functional survey of the brain,” explains Holmberg.
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