From epidemiological studies it is known that diabetes patients display increased risk of developing dementia. Moreover, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease (AD) are also accompanied by impaired glucose homeostasis and insulin signalling. Although there is plenty of evidence for a connection between insulin-resistant diabetes and AD, definitive linking mechanisms remain elusive. Cerebrovascular complications of diabetes, alterations in glucose homeostasis and insulin signalling, as well as recurrent hypoglycaemia are the factors that most likely affect brain function and structure. While difficult to study in patients, the mechanisms by which diabetes leads to brain dysfunction have been investigated in experimental models that display phenotypes of the disease. The present article reviews the impact of diabetes and AD on brain structure and function, and discusses recent findings from translational studies in animal models that link insulin resistance to metabolic alterations that underlie brain dysfunction. Such modifications of brain metabolism are likely to occur at early stages of neurodegeneration and impact regional neurochemical profiles and constitute non-invasive biomarkers detectable by magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Diabetes; Insulin; Metabolism; Neurodegeneration.