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Diabetes Health Center

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New Clue on Brain Problems and Diabetes

Stress Hormone May Affect Memory in People With Diabetes
WebMD Health News

Feb. 18, 2008 -- Too much of a stress-related hormone may be at the root of memory and other common brain-related diabetes complications.

A new study shows the release of the stress hormone corticosterone is tied to the development of memory or learning problems in rats with diabetes. But normalizing the levels of this hormone may restore normal brain function.

Researchers say many organs are adversely affected by diabetes, including the brain, which undergoes changes that may increase the risk of cognitive decline, such as loss of memory and difficulty concentrating. Until now the reasons behind this decline have been unclear, but these results suggest that diabetes may trigger the release of excessive levels of corticosterone.

Targeting Diabetes Complications

In the study, published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers evaluated the effects of altering the levels of corticosterone on cognitive function in rats with diabetes.

They found increases in the stress hormone caused a drop in brain cell regeneration and a decline in memory formation in the rats. But normalizing the levels of the stress hormone reversed many of these negative effects and restored relatively normal brain function, regardless of changes in insulin production.

Although these results are only preliminary, researchers say they could lead to new treatments to help ease this common diabetes complication.

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