The Impact of Crohn's Disease on Brain Function

Crohn’s disease patients often report concentration and thought problems.

Crohn’s disease can impact brain function in the capacities of slower response times than individuals without Crohn’s, according to findings published in UEG Journal.

Researchers from Australia observed 49 Crohn’s disease patients and 31 healthy age and sex matched controls in order to measure the cognitive impairments in Crohn’s disease patients compared to healthy populations. Patients completed clinical, demographic, and psychiatric fatigue and sleep parameter surveys while also undergoing biometric tests.

The researchers noted that Crohn’s disease patients often mention their cognitive difficulties, such as concentration problems and clouding of thoughts. However, the underlying mechanisms of the cognitive problems remain unknown.

The researchers found that cognitive response times in Crohn’s disease patients were about 10% slower than compared to their healthy control counterparts. This was significantly correlated with symptoms of active inflammation, including abdominal pain and fatigue, the researchers commented.

Response times in Crohn’s disease patients were even slower than response times in people over the legal drunk driving limits within countries of the European Union: typically 0.05 g per 100 ml, as explained in a press release.

“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,” Daniel van Langenberg, MD, lead researcher for the study, explained in the statement. “The findings appear consistent with experiments that have shown that bowel inflammation results in an up regulation of inflammatory hippocampus activity in the brain. This, in turn, might account for the slower response times that were observed in the study.”

The researchers also learned that Crohn’s disease patients reported higher median depression scores and poorer ratings for their quality of sleep. Both of these factors impacted more severe cognitive impairment, they said.

Also, Crohn’s disease patients typically displayed symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea, but also mention cognitive deficits. Such symptoms are sometimes are often ignored by clinicians, they authors concluded.