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Diabetes. 2006 Apr;55(4):1088-95.

Cognitive and neural hippocampal effects of long-term moderate recurrent hypoglycemia.

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1
Section of Endocrinology, Yale School of Medicine, One Gilbert Street, TAC S147, P.O. Box 208020, New Haven, CT 06519, USA. ewan.mcnay@yale.edu

Abstract

Recurrent hypoglycemia is the most feared complication of intensive insulin therapy for type 1 diabetes. Study of the cognitive impact of recurrent hypoglycemia in humans has been hampered by difficulty in controlling for prior glycemic history and diabetes status; there have been no prospective studies. We used a rat model of recurrent hypoglycemia with hypoglycemia for 3 h, once weekly, from 1 month of age. At 4, 8, and 12 months of age, cohorts were tested on a hippocampally dependent spatial memory task, during which hippocampal extracellular fluid (ECF) glucose and lactate were measured using microdialysis. At 4 months, recurrent hypoglycemia improved euglycemic task performance (76 +/- 4 vs. 64 +/- 3% for controls) and reversed the task-associated dip in ECF glucose seen in controls. However, recurrent hypoglycemia impaired performance in animals tested when hypoglycemic (45 +/- 4 vs. 55 +/- 2%). Recurrent hypoglycemia preserved euglycemic task performance across age: at 12 months, both task performance (62%) and ECF glucose changes in euglycemic recurrently hypoglycemic animals resembled those of 4-month-old control animals, whereas control animals' performance deteriorated to chance (44%) by 8 months. At 12 months, hippocampal slice physiology was assessed, with results paralleling the cognitive findings: slices from recurrently hypoglycemic rats showed improved gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic inhibition at euglycemia but much greater loss of this tone at low bath glucose. Our data show that moderate weekly hypoglycemia prevented age-related decline in hippocampally cognitive function and cognitive metabolism, at least when euglycemic. The impact of recurrent hypoglycemia on cognition is multifaceted and includes both metabolic and electrophysiological components.

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