Edinburgh researchers to probe memory loss in people with diabetics

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh are aiming to pinpoint why diabetes can cause memory loss and mental decline. A thousand people will take part in the study, the largest of its kind ever undertaken in the UK.

The research team will ask people with Type 2 diabetes –associated with an increased risk of memory impairment and dementia –aged 60-75 years to complete puzzle-based tests and have their heart function and blood sugar levels measured. Follow up tests four years later will find out if there have been any changes in brain function.

Dr Mark Strachan, an honorary senior lecturer at the University and a consultant in diabetes and endocrinology at the Western General Hospital, said: "People with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of developing problems with memory and problem-solving abilities. Although the cause of these abnormalities is not understood, various risk factors associated with diabetes may be important. For example, in some cases, high blood sugar levels can be damaging to small blood vessels in the eyes, nerves and kidneys and there is evidence that the same damage – microvascular disease – can occur in the brains of people with diabetes.

"The main aim of this study is to find out which risk factors, including microvascular disease, inflammation and alterations in hormone levels are linked to altered brain function in people with diabetes. This information is crucial in determining the cause of diabetes-related memory problems and other changes in brain function such as problem-solving abilities and attention span." He added: "Diabetes affects around three per cent of the UK population, and about 170,000 people in Scotland are known to be affected. The prevalence of diabetes is increasing but we are better at treating its complications, such as heart disease. As a result, people with diabetes are likely to live longer and so cognitive problems are likely to become a much bigger issue."

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The Edinburgh Type 2 Diabetes Study is funded by the Medical Research Council.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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