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Diabetes Care. 1999 Aug;22(8):1318-24.

Conventional versus intensive diabetes therapy in children with type 1 diabetes: effects on memory and motor speed.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.



Severe hypoglycemia may impair medial temporal-mediated cognitive skills, such as the ability to recall past events explicitly (delayed declarative memory). The objective of this study was to determine whether delayed declarative memory deficits are present in a group of diabetic children with an increased risk of severe hypoglycemia.


Nondiabetic children (n = 16) and children with type 1 diabetes who had been randomly assigned to either intensive (IT) (n = 13) or conventional (CT) (n = 12) diabetes therapy at the time of diagnosis participated in the study. All episodes of severe hypoglycemia were prospectively ascertained. All children were tested on memory tasks that have been closely linked to medial temporal functioning and on reaction time measures.


Our results demonstrated that the IT group had a threefold higher rate of severe hypoglycemia, performed less accurately on a spatial declarative memory task, and performed more slowly, but not less accurately, on a pattern recognition task than did the CT group or control subjects. In addition, both groups of type 1 diabetic children were significantly impaired on a motor speed task compared with their nondiabetic peers.


These results indicate a selective relative memory impairment associated with IT that is consistent with the effects of severe hypoglycemia and medial temporal damage or dysfunction. If larger prospective studies determine that severe hypoglycemia is the mediating factor for this memory impairment, extreme caution in imposing overly strict standards for glucose control in young patients with type 1 diabetes would be indicated because of the increased risk of hypoglycemia associated with IT regimens.

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