BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Alterations of brain morphology in Crohn's disease have been reported, but data is scarce and heterogenous and the possible impact of disease predisposition on brain development is unknown. Assuming a systemic course of the disease, brain involvement seems more probable in presence of extraintestinal manifestations, but this question has not yet been addressed. The present study examined the relationship between Crohn's disease and brain structure and focused on the connection with extraintestinal manifestations and markers of brain development.<br /><br />METHODS: In a pilot study, brains of 15 patients with Crohn's disease (of which 9 had a history of extraintestinal manifestations, i.e. arthritis, erythema nodosum and primary sclerosing cholangitis) were compared to matched healthy controls using high resolution magnetic resonance imaging. Patients and controls were tested for depression, fatigue and global cognitive function. Cortical thickness, surface area and folding were determined via cortical surface modeling.<br /><br />RESULTS: The overall group comparison (i.e. all patients vs. controls) yielded no significant results. In the patient subgroup with extraintestinal manifestations, changes in cortical area and folding, but not thickness, were identified: Patients showed elevated cortical surface area in the left middle frontal lobe (p<0.05) and hypergyrification in the left lingual gyrus (p<0.001) compared to healthy controls. Hypogyrification of the right insular cortex (p<0.05) and hypergyrification of the right anterior cingulate cortex (p<0.001) were detected in the subgroup comparison of patients with against without extraintestinal manifestations. P-values are corrected for multiple comparisons.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: Our findings lend further support to the hypothesis that Crohn's disease is associated with aberrant brain structure and preliminary support for the hypothesis that these changes are associated with a systemic course of the disease as indicated by extraintestinal manifestations. Changes in cortical surface area and folding suggest a possible involvement of Crohn's disease or its predisposition during brain development.
Thomann, A. K., Thomann, P. A., Wolf, R. C., Hirjak, D., Schmahl, C., Ebert, M. P., … Griebe, M. (2016). Altered markers of brain development in Crohn’s disease with extraintestinal manifestations - A pilot study. PLoS ONE, 11(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0163202