School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

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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:


Copyright © 2020, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. Original published version available at

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