Type 2 Diabetes May Impair Some Cognitive Functions

March 10, 2015
Krystle Vermes

Type 2 diabetes may be associated with impairments in cognitive abilities, such as working memory and verbal fluency.

Type 2 diabetes may be associated with impairments in cognitive abilities, such as working memory and verbal fluency.

For their research, which was published in Psychosomatic Medicine, investigators reviewed 60 studies that compared 9815 type 2 diabetics with 69,254 control subjects on measures of executive functions that influence habitual thinking patterns and reflexive behaviors.

After doing so, the researchers determined that type 2 diabetes is associated with mild-to-moderate decrements in executive functions, which are more pronounced among those with shorter disease duration.

“The problem is the fact that effective diabetes management relies pretty heavily on executive function,” said senior study author Peter Hall, PhD, in a press release. “Essentially, people with type 2 diabetes may be hit with the double whammy of having more need for executive control, but—possibly because of the disease's effect on the brain—less intact resources for exerting it.”

Other recent studies have suggested that older adults, who comprise the largest demographic of type 2 diabetics, can improve their executive function by engaging in cognitively stimulating activities and staying physically active. Such habits can also strengthen parts of the brain that are responsible for self-control.

"Fortunately, there are a few things that can help optimize the brain structures that support executive function," Dr. Hall noted. "Aerobic exercise and cognitively challenging activities—such as learning new things, solving difficult puzzles, and other problem-solving activities—all help to keep your brain sharp.”