Glial-neuron crosstalk in health and disease: A focus on metabolism, obesity, and cognitive impairment

Neurobiol Dis. 2022 Aug;170:105766. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2022.105766. Epub 2022 May 16.


Dementia is a complex set of disorders affecting normal cognitive function. Recently, several clinical studies have shown that diabetes, obesity, and components of the metabolic syndrome (MetS) are associated with cognitive impairment, including dementias such as Alzheimer's disease. Maintaining normal cognitive function is an intricate process involving coordination of neuron function with multiple brain glia. Well-orchestrated bioenergetics is a central requirement of neurons, which need large amounts of energy but lack significant energy storage capacity. Thus, one of the most important glial functions is to provide metabolic support and ensure an adequate energy supply for neurons. Obesity and metabolic disease dysregulate glial function, leading to a failure to respond to neuron energy demands, which results in neuronal damage. In this review, we outline evidence for links between diabetes, obesity, and MetS components to cognitive impairment. Next, we focus on the metabolic crosstalk between the three major glial cell types, oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, and microglia, with neurons under physiological conditions. Finally, we outline how diabetes, obesity, and MetS components can disrupt glial function, and how this disruption might impair glia-neuron metabolic crosstalk and ultimately promote cognitive impairment.

Keywords: Astrocyte; Axon; Cognitive impairment; Dementia; Diabetes; Metabolic syndrome; Metabolism; Microglia; Neuron; Obesity; Oligodendrocyte.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism