A new study, published in the journal of American Academy of Neurology, has revealed that people suffering from diabetes may have cognition skills impacted in just two years. The detrimental impact was attributed to the inability to regulate blood flow in the brain which was associated with lower scores on tests of cognition skills.
The research participants consisted of 40 people with an average of 66. Of those, 19 had type 2 diabetes and 21 did not have diabetes. Those with diabetes had been treated for the disease for an average of 13 years. The participants were tested at the beginning of the study and again two years later. Tests included cognition and memory tests, MRI scans of the brain to look at brain volume and blood flow, and blood tests to measure control of blood sugar and inflammation.
“Normal blood flow regulation allows the brain to redistribute blood to areas of the brain that have increased activity while performing certain tasks,” said study author Vera Novak, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School in Boston. “People with type 2 diabetes have impaired blood flow regulation. Our results suggest that diabetes and high blood sugar impose a chronic negative effect on cognitive and decision-making skills.”
The study findings revealed that people with diabetes have a reduction in ability to regulate blood flow in the brain. They also tested much lower on tests of memory and thinking skills. Higher levels of inflammation were detected associated with greater decreases in blood flow regulation, even if people had good control of their diabetes and blood pressure. The learning and memory testing scores of research participants with diabetes decreased by 12 percent, from 46 points to 41 points over the two years of the study, while the scores of those without diabetes stayed the same, at 55 points. Blood flow regulation in the brain was decreased by 65 percent in people with diabetes.
“Early detection and monitoring of blood flow regulation may be an important predictor of accelerated changes in cognitive and decision-making skills,” Novak said.
Inflammation-associated declines in cerebral vasoreactivity and cognition in type 2 diabetes, Vera Novak et al., Neurology, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000001820, published online 8 July 2015, abstract.