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 A Almasy, Ravindranath Duggirala, John C Blangero, David C. Glahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


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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