Impaired Insulin Sensitivity as Indexed by the HOMA Score Is Associated With Deficits in Verbal Fluency and Temporal Lobe Gray Matter Volume in the Elderly

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Impaired insulin sensitivity is linked to cognitive deficits and reduced brain size. However, it is not yet known whether insulin sensitivity involves regional changes in gray matter volume. Against this background, we examined the association between insulin sensitivity, cognitive performance, and regional gray matter volume in 285 cognitively healthy elderly men and women aged 75 years from the Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUS) study.


Insulin sensitivity was calculated from fasting serum insulin and plasma glucose determinations using the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) method. Cognitive performance was examined by a categorical verbal fluency. Participants also underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan. Multivariate analysis using linear regression was conducted, controlling for potential confounders (sex, education, serum LDL cholesterol, mean arterial blood pressure, and abdominal visceral fat volume).


The HOMA-IR was negatively correlated with verbal fluency performance, brain size, and temporal lobe gray matter volume in regions known to be involved in speech production (Brodmann areas 21 and 22, respectively). No such effects were observed when examining diabetic (n = 55) and cognitively impaired (n = 27) elderly subjects as separate analyses.


These cross-sectional findings suggest that both pharmacologic and lifestyle interventions improving insulin signaling may promote brain health in late life but must be confirmed in patient studies.

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