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Brain structure & function

Prolonged fasting impairs neural reactivity to visual stimulation.


PMID 25269832

Abstract

Previous literature has shown that hypoglycemia influences the intensity of the BOLD signal. A similar but smaller effect may also be elicited by low normal blood glucose levels in healthy individuals. This may not only confound the BOLD signal measured in fMRI, but also more generally interact with cognitive processing, and thus indirectly influence fMRI results. Here we show in a placebo-controlled, crossover, double-blind study on 40 healthy subjects, that overnight fasting and low normal levels of glucose contrasted to an activated, elevated glucose condition have an impact on brain activation during basal visual stimulation. Additionally, functional connectivity of the visual cortex shows a strengthened association with higher-order attention-related brain areas in an elevated blood glucose condition compared to the fasting condition. In a fasting state visual brain areas show stronger coupling to the inferior temporal gyrus. Results demonstrate that prolonged overnight fasting leads to a diminished BOLD signal in higher-order occipital processing areas when compared to an elevated blood glucose condition. Additionally, functional connectivity patterns underscore the modulatory influence of fasting on visual brain networks. Patterns of brain activation and functional connectivity associated with a broad range of attentional processes are affected by maturation and aging and associated with psychiatric disease and intoxication. Thus, we conclude that prolonged fasting may decrease fMRI design sensitivity in any task involving attentional processes when fasting status or blood glucose is not controlled.