Hypoglycaemic events can be a serious complication of insulin therapy in Type 1 diabetes mellitus. Severe hypoglycaemic exposure can lead to episodic memory impairments, including anterograde amnesia. However, relatively little is known regarding the long-term impact of severe hypoglycaemia on brain structure in Type 1 diabetes mellitus. The goals of the present study were to gain a greater understanding of the long-term effects of severe hypoglycaemia exposure on brain structure and the neural correlates of memory impairments in Type 1 diabetes mellitus.
Regional grey and white matter volume and total white matter lesion volume were quantified in an individual with long-standing hypoglycaemia-induced anterograde amnesia and compared with age- and gender-matched healthy controls. Our patient has significant reductions in grey matter volume in the hippocampus, thalamus and pallidum, and significant reductions in white matter volume in the splenium, isthmus of the cingulate and cerebellum. He also has a significantly larger total white matter lesion volume than controls.
This case study highlights the potential of hypoglycaemia for permanent deleterious effects on brain structure and memory function. Our results suggest that subcortical grey matter, periventricular white matter and posterior white matter may be most susceptible to injury from hypoglycaemia exposure, and that structural damage to the hippocampus and isthmus of the cingulate may play a central role in hypoglycaemia-induced memory impairments.