First published January 30, 2018 - More info
BACKGROUND. Amongst non-diabetic individuals, mild glucose decrements alter brain activity in regions linked to reward, motivation and executive control. Whether these effects differ in T1DM patients with and without hypoglycemia awareness remains unclear.
METHODS. 42 individuals (13 healthy control subjects (HC), 16 T1DM individuals with hypoglycemia awareness (T1DM-Aware) and 13 T1DM individuals with hypoglycemia unawareness (T1DM-Unaware)) underwent BOLD fMRI brain imaging during a 2-step hyperinsulinemic euglycemic (90 mg/dl)-hypoglycemic (60 mg/dl) clamp for assessment of neural responses to mild hypoglycemia.
RESULTS. Mild hypoglycemia in HC altered activity in the caudate, insula, prefrontal cortex, and angular gyrus, whereas T1DM-Aware subjects showed no caudate and insula changes, but showed altered activation patterns in the prefrontal cortex and angular gyrus. Most strikingly, in direct contrast to HC and T1DM-Aware subjects, T1DM-Unaware subjects failed to show any hypoglycemia-induced changes in brain activity. These findings were also associated with blunted hormonal counterregulatory responses and hypoglycemia symptoms scores during mild hypoglycemia.
CONCLUSION. In T1DM, and in particular T1DM-Unaware patients, there is a progressive blunting of brain responses in cortico-striatal and fronto-parietal neurocircuits in response to mild-moderate hypoglycemia. These findings have implications for understanding why individuals with impaired hypoglycemia awareness fail to respond appropriately to falling blood glucose levels.
FUNDING. This study was supported in part by grants from the NIH R01DK020495 and P30 DK045735 (Sherwin), K23DK109284 (Hwang), K08AA023545 (Seo), the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation supported by the Clinical Translational Science Award (UL1 RR024139).