Neurocognitive impairment in type 2 diabetes: evidence for shared genetic aetiology

Josephine Mollon, Joanne E. Curran, Samuel R. Mathias, Emma E.M. Knowles, Phoebe Carlisle, Peter T. Fox, Rene L. Olvera, Harald H.H. Göring, Amanda Rodrigue, Laura Almasy, Ravi Duggirala, John Blangero, David C. Glahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims/hypothesis: Type 2 diabetes is associated with cognitive impairments, but it is unclear whether common genetic factors influence both type 2 diabetes risk and cognition. Methods: Using data from 1892 Mexican-American individuals from extended pedigrees, including 402 with type 2 diabetes, we examined possible pleiotropy between type 2 diabetes and cognitive functioning, as measured by a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery. Results: Negative phenotypic correlations (ρp) were observed between type 2 diabetes and measures of attention (Continuous Performance Test [CPT d′]: ρp = −0.143, p = 0.001), verbal memory (California Verbal Learning Test [CVLT] recall: ρp = −0.111, p = 0.004) and face memory (Penn Face Memory Test [PFMT]: ρp = −0.127, p = 0.002; PFMT Delayed: ρp = −0.148, p = 2 × 10−4), replicating findings of cognitive impairment in type 2 diabetes. Negative genetic correlations (ρg) were also observed between type 2 diabetes and measures of attention (CPT d′: ρg = −0.401, p = 0.001), working memory (digit span backward test: ρg = −0.380, p = 0.005), and face memory (PFMT: ρg = −0.476, p = 2 × 10−4; PFMT Delayed: ρg = −0.376, p = 0.005), suggesting that the same genetic factors underlying risk for type 2 diabetes also influence poor cognitive performance in these domains. Performance in these domains was also associated with type 2 diabetes risk using an endophenotype ranking value approach. Specifically, on measures of attention (CPT d′: β = −0.219, p = 0.005), working memory (digit span backward: β = −0.326, p = 0.035), and face memory (PFMT: β = −0.171, p = 0.023; PFMT Delayed: β = −0.215, p = 0.005), individuals with type 2 diabetes showed the lowest performance, while unaffected/unrelated individuals showed the highest performance, and those related to an individual with type 2 diabetes performed at an intermediate level. Conclusions/interpretation: These findings suggest that cognitive impairment may be a useful endophenotype of type 2 diabetes and, therefore, help to elucidate the pathophysiological underpinnings of this chronic disease. Data availability: The data analysed in this study is available in dbGaP:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)977-986
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Cognitive function
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Genetic correlation
  • Genetic overlap
  • Type 2 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

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