October 19, 2011

Brain activity during hypoglycemia in Type 1 diabetes


It is awe inspiring to see just how much people with Type 1 diabetes demand of their brain in everyday routine and extraordinary circumstances. Now we’re able to back it up with science-based evidence .

This past month, researchers found that patients with Type 1 diabetes who perform a working-memory task (WMT)  have more activation of brain regions and less deactivation of the default-mode network than control subjects without diabetes.

Work­ing mem­ory is the abil­ity to keep infor­ma­tion cur­rent in mind for a short period, while using this infor­ma­tion for the task at hand. Work­ing mem­ory is sup­ported by regions of the frontal lobes (reasoning, emotions, problem solving) and pari­etal lobes (movement, orientation, recognition).

The default-mode network (DMN) is a network of brain regions that are active when the individual is not focused on the outside world and the brain is at wakeful rest. For the folks who know what having a low sugar feels: this is where we need the DMN region of our brain!

The two groups were tested at normal glucose (5.0 mmol/L or about 90 mg/dL ) and a hypoglycemic level (2.8 mmol/L or about 50 mg/dL).

While in the normal glucose range, both groups  activate the same regions of the brain. Whereas when in lower glycemic range, both groups did have lower activity in the brain but the yype 1 diabetic group remained 80% larger than the control group.

It seems to make sense that Type 1 diabetes causes a person to adapt to the changing circumstances. In doing so – keeping the brain working despite conditions of famine (aka hypoglycemia) the body does whatever it can do to preserve  the functioning fuel for the brain.

Researchers felt that the study suggests reduced cerebral efficiency in Type 1 diabetes. I respect that finding. I agree – Type 1 diabetes causes the body to exhibit ‘reduced efficiency’ across the board. Ever hear the quote: choose your battles wisely?

The human body affected by Type 1 diabetes is remarkable. Granted it’s a survival adaptation but if that isn’t proverbial use of the phrase use your head – I don’t know what is!

To read more on this study checkout the link to PubMed.