Posted by: Harry | November 14, 2011

SfN 2011 Update: Does type 2 diabetes affect temporal lobe structure? Could this be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease?

So we’re just wrapping up the second day of Neuroscience 2011 as official Theme C bloggers. I’ve been working real hard to find you guys some interesting posters to blog about. This is actually a fairly difficult procedure, as I’ve found that each poster takes a great deal of time and thought to fully apprehend. It’s amazing to think of the work that went into every single one of them, so I’ll try to do them justice.

Today I found a really cool poster called “Medial Temporal Lobe Atrophy in People with Type 2 Diabetes: A Possible Early Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease”. I stopped by a little late and must have missed the presenting author. But it was a great poster all the same. So it seems that what they did was gather age-matched participants who were either from a population of healthy controls, or individuals diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM). Using structural MRI, they were able to show that individuals with T2DM had reductions in the size of their hippocampus and entorhinal cortex (on the right side of their brain only), and reduced perirhinal cortex on both sides. I’m not sure what to make of the asymmetry, though looking at their data, it’s probably just a matter of statistical power, since both left and right sides look quite low compared to their respective controls. Interestingly, they also found a negative correlation between glycated hemoglobin (a marker of persistent hyperglycemia) and hippocampal volume on both sides of the brain.

Because I’m a metabolic person, I found this a really interesting study. There’s good reason to think, based on these findings, that something about T2DM and the metabolic syndrome negatively affects brain morphology. It could be that the syndrome itself does not affect the brain volume, perhaps the lifestyle variables that lead to diabetes are themselves causing the problems. As the authors suggest, a larger and more comprehensive study is needed to further explore these findings. This also brings up the issue of early intervention. It’s possible that these reductions in size could be the first signs of impending Alzheimer’s Disease (or some other type of neurodegenerative disorder, for that matter), so if they are indeed caused by diabetes early intervention would be essential.

In other conference related news: the exhibitors and vendors opened up today. I experienced transcranial magnetic stimulation (in a very mild form – they got my finger to twitch and I saw some visual artifacts), failed miserably at putting a golf ball, and secured enough free pens to last an entire year, even with my horrible track record for losing them.

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