Background: The hippocampus is a key brain area for many forms of learning and memory and is particularly sensitive to changes in glucose homeostasis.
Aim of the work: To investigate in experimentally induced type 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus in rat model the effect of diabetes mellitus on cognitive functions and related markers of hippocampal synaptic plasticity, and the possible impact of blocking N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors by memantine.
Materials and methods: Seven rat groups were included: non-diabetic control and non-diabetic receiving memantine; type-1 diabetic groups - untreated, treated with insulin alone and treated with insulin and memantine; and type 2 diabetic groups - untreated and memantine treated. Cognitive functions were assessed by the Morris Water Maze and passive avoidance test. Biochemical analysis was done for serum glucose, serum insulin and insulin resistance. Routine histological examination was done, together with immunohistochemistry for detection of the hippocampal learning and memory plasticity marker, namely activity regulated cytoskeletal-associated protein (Arc), and the astrocytes reactivity marker, namely glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP).
Results: Both type 1 and 2 untreated diabetic groups showed significantly impaired cognitive performance compared to the non-diabetic group. Treating the type 1 diabetic group with insulin alone significantly improved cognitive performance, but significantly decreased GFAP and Arc compared to the untreated type 1 group. In addition, the type 2 diabetic groups showed a significant decrease in hippocampus GFAP and Arc compared to the non-diabetic groups. Blocking NMDA receptors by memantine significantly increased cognitive performance, GFAP and Arc in the type 1 insulin-memantine group compared to the type 1-insulin group and significantly increased Arc in the type 2-memantine group compared to the untreated type 2 diabetic group. The non-diabetic group receiving memantine was, however, significantly adversely affected.
Conclusion: Cognitive functions are impaired in both types of diabetes mellitus and can be improved by blockage of NMDA receptors which may spark a future therapeutic role for these receptors in diabetes-associated cognitive dysfunction.