Glucose and Cerebral Functions

There is now good evidence that increases in plasma glucose can enhance learning in rodents and humans ( 69). Many drugs that impair learning and memory (e.g., opiates, g-aminobutyric agonists, cholinergic antagonists) can have their actions reduced by glucose ( 70). Injecting glucose into the medial septum and into the amygdala of the brain in rats attenuates the inhibitory action of morphine in a trained avoidance task ( 6.9). It is suggested that glucose metabolites, such as pyruvate, may contribute to the mechanism by which glucose regulates brain cell function. Glucose has also been shown to enhance the memory of aged rodents and humans. In healthy humans 60 to 80 years old, glucose (50 g) was more effective than saccharin (27 mg) in improving narrative memory test performance (69), but it had no effect on performance of nonmemory tasks, i.e., attention, motor speed, or overall IQ. These actions of glucose showed an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve, the optimal glucose dose producing blood levels of 8.9 mmol/L (160 mg/dL). The effects of glucose on memory outlast the increased level of glucose in the plasma, indicating a stable improvement in function. Remarkably, glucose can also enhance memory and other cognitive functions in patients with Alzheimer's disease and young adults with Down's syndrome (69). These promising findings suggest that glucose or its metabolites may be harnessed to ameliorate the normal loss of mental function with age and the cruel degeneration of mental ability with Alzheimer's disease.

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