Study Finds Link Between Liver Disease and Brain Health

2 min read

June 27, 2023 – Researchers at Yale University say they have found a connection between liver fibrosis and reduced mental ability. Liver fibrosis is the scarring of tissue that occurs with many chronic liver diseases. 

The study noted the need for early detection of liver disease to help prevent cognitive, or mental, decline. 

Researchers used data from the UK Biobank project, a nationwide study of more than 500,000 adults representing a cross-section of the British population.

They assessed “potential liver-brain connections and correlating liver fibrosis with reduced cognitive ability and brain volume,” Neuroscience News wrote. 

Researchers found that liver fibrosis was related to less gray matter in parts of the brain. Inflammation “was found to be a potential mediating factor” between liver fibrosis, mental capabilities, and brain structure.

The study was published in eBioMedicine.

“More and more, folks are starting to realize that there’s not this split between brain-based disorders and other types of physical health,” said Dustin Scheinost, associate professor of radiology and biomedical imaging at Yale School of Medicine and senior author of the study. “We’re starting to understand that liver disease, heart disease, and other diseases will have impacts on the brain, and brain disorders have impacts on the body.”

“There was a significant negative correlation between liver fibrosis and multiple cognitive functions, including working memory, prospective memory, and processing speed,” said Rongtao Jiang, a postdoctoral associate and lead author of the study.

“Early-stage liver fibrosis is a reversible syndrome, and our current study suggests that early surveillance and prevention of liver disease may reduce cognitive decline and brain volume loss,” said Jiang. 

Jiang noted that medications or other ways to target the inflammation caused by liver disease could help prevent “the disease burden of liver fibrosis.”