Unexpected Discovery Gives New Model For Studying Brain Networks


Source: Iowa State University

Summary: Researchers found that people with Type-2 diabetes and prediabetes were more likely to focus on and have a strong emotional response to threats and negative things, which affects the quality of life and increases risk for depression.


For millions of Americans who are obese and living with diabetes or prediabetes, feelings of sadness, anger and anxiety are often part of daily life. For people with blood sugar problems, being more stressed and reactive can cause blood sugar to spike. If people with prediabetes and diabetes are trying to reverse or treat the disease, stressful events may hinder their goals. Frequent negative reactions to stressful events can lead to a lower quality of life and create a vicious cycle that makes it difficult to be healthy. Researchers from the Iowa State University found that people with Type2 diabetes and prediabetes were more likely to focus on and have a strong emotional response to threats and negative things, which affects the quality of life and increases risk for depression. The study findings were published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

Brain activity-diabetes-depression

Data collected through EEG and with eye electrodes allowed researchers to measure brain activity and startle response. Credit: Christopher Gannon, Iowa State University

The team analyzed data on startle response, brain activity, cortisol levels and cognitive assessment. They say that gauging the startle response allowed them to measure central nervous system activity using tiny electrodes placed below the eye. Study participants viewed a series of negative, positive and neutral images intended to elicit an emotional response. The electrodes captured the rate of flinch or startle, a contraction we cannot control, associated with each image. People with higher levels of insulin resistance were more startled by negative pictures. By extension, they may be more reactive to negative things in life. It is one piece of evidence to suggest that these metabolic problems are related to issues with how we perceive and deal with things that stress all of us out.

The researchers say the evidence is even more compelling when combined with the results of EEG tests recording activity when the brain is at rest. Study participants with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes had more activity on the right side of the brain, which is associated with depression and negative emotions.


More Information: Tovah Wolf et al, Neural, Hormonal, and Cognitive Correlates of Metabolic Dysfunction and Emotional Reactivity, Psychosomatic Medicine (2018). DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000582 


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