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The Effects of Glucose on Decision-Making

The Effects of Glucose on Decision-Making

Zachary Helms


The Effects of Levels of Fasting Glucose on Decision-Making

Zachary Helms, Natalie Keirns, BS, & Misty Hawkins, PhD

Background: An estimated 86 million adults in the U.S. have “pre-diabetes,” a condition in which one’s blood sugar level is elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Individuals with these sub-clinical elevations of glucose may have impaired ability to inhibit their behaviors compared to those with normal blood glucose levels. However, previous studies have used laboratory tests of cognitive inhibition (i.e. the Go/No-Go Task). The current research project extends the current literature by determining whether glucose levels also predict performance on more “real-world” decision-making tasks, including jury verdict rendering and financial decisions.

Methods: Subjects are being recruited using an online experiment scheduling system. Eligibility criteria are: no history of Type 1 or 2 diabetes, aged 18 years or older, and no history of any neurological disorder. Eligible, consented, and fasted participants begin the study by having their blood taken via finger stick to measure their fasting glucose levels. Participants then partake in the decision-making tasks, including the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART), the Monetary Choice Task, and the trial verdict simulation. Data collection is ongoing.

Expected Results: Using multiple regression analyses, we expect to find a statistically significant relationship between fasting glucose levels and performance on the decision making tasks, such that persons with elevated glucose levels will have more errors and/or more rapid responses on the tasks. Regression coefficients from previous studies are estimated at β=.33 so we expect a similar magnitude of effect.

Research and Clinical Implications: If our hypotheses are supported, we will show that fasting glucose levels are related to less accurate and more impulsive real world decisions, such as jury verdicts and financial decisions. In addition, we will show these impairments emerge well in advance of Type 2 diabetes onset. Such findings, if replicated, suggest that earlier intervention may be warranted in the clinical management of diabetes and other metabolic diseases.