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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2012 Sep;32(9):2060-7. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.112.252759.

Impact of metabolic syndrome on cognition and brain: a selected review of the literature.

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Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, 145 East 32nd Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10016, USA.


Metabolic syndrome (MetS), a clustering of risk factors for type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease, has been associated with cognitive dysfunction and brain abnormalities. This review describes the literature on the impact of MetS on brain and cognition and suggests directions for future research. A literature search for reports of MetS and cognition and brain imaging was conducted for both nonelderly adults and adolescents. No studies were found describing MetS and brain or cognition among adolescents; therefore, we also included studies investigating individual components of MetS in this age group. Most studies found associations between MetS and cognitive dysfunction. Multiple cognitive domains were affected by MetS in adults. In adolescents, the majority of findings were in executive functioning. Brain imaging literature in adults implicated MetS in ischemic stroke, white matter alterations, and altered brain metabolism. For adolescents, individual MetS factors were linked to volume losses in the hippocampus and frontal lobes. MetS negatively impacts cognitive performance and brain structure. Potential explanatory models include impaired vascular reactivity, neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, and abnormal brain lipid metabolism. We posit that insulin resistance-associated impairment in cerebrovascular reactivity is an important mechanism underlying brain deficits seen in MetS.

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