Central Insulin Administration Improves Odor-Cued Reactivation of Spatial Memory in Young Men

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Abstract

Context:

Insulin receptors are ubiquitously found in the human brain, comprising the olfactory bulb, essential for odor processing, and the hippocampus, important for spatial memory processing.

Objective:

The present study aimed at examining if intranasal insulin, which is known to transiently increase brain insulin levels in humans, would improve odor-cued reactivation of spatial memory in young men.

Design:

We applied a double-blind, placebo-controlled, counterbalanced within-subject design.

Setting:

The study was conducted at the research unit of a university hospital.

Interventions/Participants/Main Outcome Measures:

Following intranasal administration of either insulin (40 I.U.) or placebo, male subjects (n = 18) were exposed to eight odors. During each odor exposure, a green-colored field was presented on a 17-in. computer screen. During immediate recall (comprising 3 runs), the participants were re-exposed to each odor cue, and were asked to select the corresponding field (with visual feedback after each response). The delayed recall was scheduled ∼10 min later (without feedback). To test if insulin's putative effect on odor-place memory would be domain-specific, participants also performed a separate place and odor recognition task.

Results:

Intranasal insulin improved the delayed but not immediate odor-cued recall of spatial memory. This effect was independent of odor type and in the absence of systemic side effects (eg, fasting plasma glucose levels remained unaltered). Place and odor recognition were unaffected by the insulin treatment.

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that acute intranasal insulin improves odor-cued reactivation of spatial memory in young men.

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