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2014 Grants - Musen
Type 2 Diabetes and Risk for Alzheimer's Disease: Effect of Exercise
Gail Musen, Ph.D.
Joslin Diabetes Center
2014 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant: Non-Pharmacological Strategies to Ameliorate Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Research has shown that having type 2 diabetes may increase an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In preliminary studies, Gail Musen, Ph.D., and colleagues have found that people with type 2 diabetes show similar changes in brain function as do people with an increased genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Brain imaging shows that both groups have alterations in brain networks that normally remain active when most of the brain is at rest. These problems include damage to the network’s “wiring system”, anatomically called white matter, which connects brain cells with one another and promotes cell-to-cell communication. White matter damage can lead to declines in memory and other forms of cognition.
Recent evidence has shown that interventions targeting cardiovascular health, such as physical exercise, may be effective at improving cognitive function and reducing risk for dementia. For these studies, Dr. Musen and colleagues will explore the effects of moderate aerobic exercise on maintaining brain structure and cognitive function in people with type 2 diabetes. The researchers will recruit participants age 45 to 65 with type 2 diabetes to receive an eight-week aerobic exercise program, or a care program without exercise. The investigators will then use brain imaging techniques to determine whether the exercise intervention improved blood flow, network function and white matter health in the participants’ brains. They will also assess whether the program affected biological factors that underlie diabetes, such as insulin resistance. Results of this effort could lead to a novel non-pharmacological therapy for both diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.