Cognition and Diabetes Across the Life Span: Preface
This Diabetes Spectrum From Research to Practice section is focused on cognitive functioning in individuals with diabetes across the life span. My training is in neuropsychology, a subspecialty within clinical psychology focused on understanding brain-behavior relationships through research and clinical practice. When I began my career, my work focused on providing clinical neuropsychological services to patients with a wide variety of neurological and medical diseases affecting the brain. The goal of neuropsychological assessment is typically to determine if a neurological/medical condition is affecting brain function and, if so, the consequences for daily functioning (e.g., driving or returning to work or school). Neuropsychologists are also tasked with identifying the etiology of cognitive impairment and recommending and carrying out interventions to mitigate the impact of cognitive impairments via rehabilitation efforts.
When reviewing the medical histories of patients with neurological disease, type 2 diabetes is common. However, aside from being viewed as a generic “cerebrovascular risk factor,” diabetes is infrequently considered as a potential direct influence on brain function, nor is diabetes self-management considered an important set of everyday activities that cognitive impairment may affect. A common recommendation for someone with cerebrovascular risk factors and diabetes is to improve diabetes management to maximize brain health, but very little attention is paid to how a patient with cognitive impairment is supposed to accomplish this complicated task.
This changed for me when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 36 years. I was struck by the cognitive complexity of …