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Hypoglycemia May Enhance Cognitive Function

Study may help dispel type 1 diabetics' fears that hypoglycemia degrades cognitive performance

FRIDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- Recurrent hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes may preserve and enhance cognitive function, according to the results of an animal study published in the April issue of Diabetes.

Ewan C. McNay, Ph.D., of the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues used a rat model of recurrent hypoglycemia with hypoglycemia for three hours, once weekly, from one month of age. At four, eight and 12 months of age, the researchers tested the rats with a hippocampally dependent spatial memory task and measured hippocampal extracellular fluid (ECF) glucose and lactate.

"Recurrent hypoglycemia preserved euglycemic task performance across age: at 12 months, both task performance (62 percent) and ECF glucose changes in euglycemic recurrently hypoglycemic animals resembled those of four-month-old control animals, whereas control animals' performance deteriorated to chance (44 percent) by eight months," the researchers found.

"The present data show that a clinically relevant model of recurrent hypoglycemia, with moderate and widely spaced episodes of hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia such as those experienced by type 1 diabetic patients on intensive insulin therapy, has a marked impact on many aspects of brain function," the authors conclude. "At least with regard to the spatial memory task used in this study, contrary to many patients worries, recurrent hypoglycemia does not appear to degrade subsequent cognitive performance but in fact may preserve it, at least at euglycemia."

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