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Short-Term, Delayed, and Working Memory Are Impaired During Hypoglycemia

CITATION:  Sommerfield, A.J., Deary, I.J., et al. (2003). Short-Term, Delayed, and Working Memory Are Impaired During Hypoglycemia in Individuals With Type 1 Diabetes.  Diabetes Care, Volume 26, Number 2.


Objective. To examine the effects of acute insulin-induced hypoglycemia on short-term, delayed, and working memory in individuals with type 1 diabetes.

Research Design and Methods. A hyperinsulinemic glucose clamp was used to maintain arterialized blood glucose level at either 4.5 mmol/l (euglycemia) or 2.5 mmol/l (hypoglycemia) on two separate occasions in 16 adults with type 1 diabetes. The participants completed tests of immediate and delayed verbal memory, immediate and delayed visual memory, and working memory during each experimental condition. Two other mental tests, the Trail Making B Test and the Digit Symbol Test, were also administered.

Results. Performance in tests of immediate verbal and immediate visual memory was significantly impaired during hypoglycemia. The effect of hypoglycemia on working memory and delayed memory was more profound. Performance in the nonmemory tests, the Trail Making B Test, and the Digit Symbol Test also deteriorated during hypoglycemia.

Conclusions. All of the memory systems examined in the present study were affected significantly by acute hypoglycemia, particularly working memory and delayed memory. Mild (self-treated) hypoglycemia is common in individuals with insulin-treated diabetes; therefore, these observed effects of hypoglycemia on memory are of potential clinical importance because they could interfere with many everyday activities.


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