October 7th, 2011 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

Researchers crack me up sometimes!

First off, I don’t know what they originally studied here, but the abstract that I can access mentions “re-examining” so clearly there was a first step we can only imagine.

The researchers here checked the brains of young adults with type one to see if either a history of severe hypoglycemia, a history of severe diabetic ketoacidosis, or a history of long-term glycemic control affected cognitive functioning.

Not a bad idea for a research study, if you ask me.

They took 34 non-diabetics aged roughly 19 years of age and they took 33 type one diabetics roughly the same age who had all been living with diabetes for about 16 years.  A1cs on the diabetic subjects was about 8.7%. (This is not a number that I would consider appropriate for the label “long-term glycemic control,” for the record.  Of course, it’s about 6% better than mine was at the time, but I digress.)

The full-scale IQ scores were the same between each group.

The researchers lined all these subjects up and tested them on a few subjects, I guess (have to guess as I have less than no idea how people test brains when brains are still alive and working) and this is what they found: These data suggest no difference in general intellectual ability, memory, and emotional difficulties in our cohort of young adults with early-onset type 1 diabetes compared with control subjects and no deterioration over time.


And then the kicker: There were, however, findings to suggest subtle changes leading to poorer performance on complex tasks of executive function.

So, okay.   I understand.  Apparently having diabetes since the average age here of three (3!!) means these 33 young adults may perform poorer than their non-diabetic peers on “complex tasks of executive function.” (Not that I can tell you without Googling it what that means.)

Oh geez!!  Wikipedia says:   Executive function is an umbrella term for cognitive processes such as planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, mental flexibility, multi-tasking, initiation and monitoring of actions.

Going down that list, from my perspective of living with type one diabetes:

Planning.  What do I need to do to keep from going low?  What do I need to do if I do go low?

Working Memory. What did I eat was it enough carbs to cover the insulin?

Attention. Where are all of my supplies? What is my blood sugar right now?

Problem Solving. I don’t feel great and my meter just said I’m 80.  Now what?

Verbal Reasoning. I need to ask for some sugar but they don’t know I have diabetes so I have to explain it.  (or) My mom just yelled at me for not checking so I have to tell her why I didn’t check.

Inhibition. I didn’t check because I was at the new sports thing and no one knows I have diabetes and I don’t want to deal with the questions.

Mental Flexibility. I think I’m low so I will check.  Oh shoot I’m not low I’m 220 maybe I’m just hungry what am I supposed to do now?

Multi-Tasking. I’m supposed to be taking that test next period but I just had P.E. and I’m feeling shaky and shoot I didn’t finish my assignment for this class and where is my meter and oh no I think I forgot my lunch.

Initiation of Actions.  Feeling junky.  Gotta eat or check.

Monitoring of Actions.  Still feel shaky.  I’ll give it 15 minutes and check again.

This just gets funnier and funnier to me.  I makes me have to ask: Are you serious, researchers??  Did you somehow not account for the COMPLEX TASKS OF EXECUTIVE FUNCTION that is blood glucose management every minute of every day of life with type one diabetes?

I think they should have somehow accounted for the fact we call diabetes the thinking person’s disease for a reason. 

Now THAT is a study I want to see.

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