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Researchers find functional change in brains of patients with type 1 diabetes

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news 28/06/2017

Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and the Institute of Complex Systems ( UBICS ) of the University of Barcelona have identified differences in the pattern of the neurofunctional activation in patients with type 1 diabetes. The study, conducted with neuroimaging techniques, represents an important step towards the understanding of how T1D can affect the brain during the cognitive activity and could have implications in the treatment for people who suffer from this metabolic disease. T1D is a chronic disease caused by a lack of insulin, an hormone that controls the sugar in blood. This type of diabetes forces patients to take insulin daily and it is an important cause for blindness, renal impairment and myocardial infarct, among other complications.

The study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE has the participation of Joan Guàrdia and Maribel Peró-Cebollero, from the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Barcelona, Geisa Gallardo and Andrés González from the University of Guadalajara (Mexico), and Esteve Gudayol from the Michoacan University of Saint Nicholas of Hidalgo (Mexico).

Changes in brain activity

The new study has explored –using functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques (fMRi)- the neuronal activation pattern in 22 patients with type 1 diabetes and a control group of 16 healthy people while they conducted memory tasks with verbal and visual stimuli. This neuroimaging technique measures the brain activity during the activities with which the changes in blood flow occur in the brain depending on the areas with a higher energy use.

“The behavioural response to the tasks in the experiment was almost the same in both groups, but brain activity was different and T1D patients showed a lower cortical activation than those in controlled groups”, says Joan Guàrdia.

Adaptation to balance cognitive dysfunction

These results support the idea that T1D has an impact on brain activity and at the same time, tempos show that in some circumstances, the brain of these patients develops adaptations to prevent cognitive impairments.

“Activations in the observed right inferior frontal area, the cerebellum and the putamen in T1D patients can be an adaptive response to reach the same behavior performance level than those in healthy patients” says Joan Guàrdia.

According to the researchers, these changes in the brain activation pattern could be neuroplastic adaptations to the glucose deregulation caused by the lack of insulin.

“If these results are confirmed, it is important to design maintenance programs on maintenance of cognitive activity for people with this disease, an approach which is not very common at the moment”, concludes the researcher.

Article reference:

J. Guàrdia-Olmos, G. B. Gallardo-Moreno, E. Gudayol-Ferré, M. Peró-Cebollero i A. A. González-Garrido. «Effect of verbal task complexity in a working memory paradigm in patients with type 1 diabetes. A fMRI study». PLOS ONE, June 2017. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178172

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The UB Institute of Complex Systems is launched

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news 12/06/2017

This week, the Founding Symposium of the Institute of Complex Systems of the UB (UBICS) took place, in the launch of this new UB Institute. UBICS gathers researchers from six faculties and centers of the UB and has forty UB researchers and fifteen researchers in training from diverse fields such as physics, philology, history, psychology, mathematics and computer sciences, apart from INEF researchers.

In the opening, which took place on June 12, the Vice-Rector for Research of the UB, Domènec Espriu, highlighted the role of these institutes to “add value” to the University. These institutes enable “to support the areas in which we are strong, such as Complexity Sciences, an area in which we believe we can have a great impact on research”.

Then, the Director of the Institute, Albert Diaz Guilera, put emphasis on the experience of other initiatives which led to the current UBICS. Also, he highlighted the multidisciplinary character of the new institute and presented some of the achieved successes despite its short life, regarding published articles in multidisciplinary distinguished journals, as well as the fact that there are already two ERC projects being developed in the Institute.

UBICS aims to be a research center that attracts prestigious and talented researchers within programs such as ICREA, from which it already has two researchers. In this sense, a great amount of permanent researchers got their job positions through the program Ramon y Cajal. The excellence of the research carried out by the current members of the Institute is awarded with the four ICREA Academia awards.    

Another objective is to list the University of Barcelona among the top institutions in the field of research on complex systems, which is now scattered into different departments and centers. UBICS allows offering common frameworks for all eligible disciplines, with guarantees, to all new funding opportunities for national and European projects and other calls, and cover new challenges and emerging fields. 

It will also encourage the collaboration with other UB research institutes and centers from other universities that are dedicated to research on common subjects, as it has been done over the last seven years with the initiative Complexitat.CAT. This purely scientific collaboration, carried out during the last years, will allow us to grow functionally until becoming a powerful Catalan entity within covering the research space that corresponds to this field of interdisciplinary research. 

It also offers a common space for the necessary intensive computing for all involved research groups and will serve to give visibility and increase its social, institutional and media impact regarding research on complex systems, as well as strengthening entrepreneurship in this field.

Despite the implication in quality research, we do not want to leave behind the importance of research visibility and training aspects. Therefore, a great part of the Institute efforts will be made on bringing the knowledge of complex systems to society and providing future scientists with it. Regarding training, we will promote activities related to the researchers in training with the current doctoral programs and postgraduate courses will be offered too, aimed at a wide range of students and researchers. In addition, another part will be dedicated to the students of the last years of the current bachelor degrees.

Research on complex systems: from neuroscience to history or collective sports

The UB institutes aim to promote interdisciplinarity and specialization in a research field. In this sense, the study of complex systems is based on the study tools for the theory of networks, statistical physics or the study of dynamic systems apart from data science and artificial intelligence. These basic branches enable applying this science to several fields that range from the behavior of matter or life sciences, neurosciences and biophysics, to social sciences (economics, psychology…) and history.

In particular, the main research lines in UBICS are focused on the application of the theory of networks to describe experiments in neural cultures, as well as predict or find out new phenomenologies in neuroscience; study and set collective behavior patterns in active matter applying dynamic networks; the development of learning models that can be compared with experimental evidence; the use of the theory of networks to classify and structure the study of collective sports; the development of hybrid models to study the dynamics in confined systems at small scale; and the study of social dilemmas, decision-taking and human mobility around urban environments, using basic modeling tools and participatory methodologies from the emerging citizen science.  

One of the emblematic projects of this interdisciplinarity is the European project ERC-AdG, led by the UB, EPNet (Production and distribution of food during the Roman Empire: economic and political dynamics), which joins the physics of complex networks and history, to do research on dynamics of the commercial trade system during the Roman Empire.

At this moment, UBICS, ratified in June 2016 by the Governing Council, has its headquarters at the Faculty of Physics.

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Crean un m├ętodo para analizar y comparar el funcionamiento de redes complejas

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La Vanguardia people 14/02/2017

Barcelona, 10 feb (EFE).- Investigadores de la Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña (UPC) y de la Universidad de Barcelona (UB) han liderado la creación de un método científico para identificar, comparar y establecer diferencias objetivas con alta precisión entre grandes nodos de redes complejas.

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