Obesity-Associated Metabolic Disease & Brain Health Research
In NYU Langone’s Department of Psychiatry, our scientists study how conditions such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease may negatively impact the brain and whether these effects can be reversed.
Under the direction of Antonio Convit, MD, our researchers use neurocognitive testing and neuroimaging techniques such as MRI and PET scans to assess brain structure and function. We also use retinal vessel diameter measurement, a noninvasive means of determining brain microvasculature.
As a result of our most recent research, we found an association between insulin resistance and impaired cerebrovascular reactivity in adults who are obese. Our researchers also discovered that improving physical fitness and insulin function in adolescents may help to reduce inflammation, possibly preventing cardiovascular disease and improving cerebrovascular health later in life.
Our research group was also integral to developing Banishing Obesity and Diabetes in Youth (the BODY project), which ran in New York City public schools from 2007 to 2012 to help prevent type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in high school students and evaluated more than 4,000 students.
Our clinical researchers are determining whether brain abnormalities related to diabetes and obesity are reversible.
Modifiable Cardiovascular Factors Linking Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease
We are conducting a longitudinal study comparing the brain health of people who are obese who have type 2 diabetes and are undergoing bariatric surgery with a group of nonsurgical people who are obese and also have type 2 diabetes. We are evaluating central nervous system impairments, memory deficits, hippocampal atrophy, and reductions in cerebral glucose uptake in regions of the brain that are vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease, as well as decreased cerebral blood flow in surgical patients before their procedure and one year after. The same variables are being measured in nonsurgical patients at the same time intervals. The goal is to determine how significant weight loss from bariatric surgery in people with type 2 diabetes leads to brain improvement and how this recovery is tempered by sex and genetics.
We anticipate that the study may result in the development of prevention strategies targeting modifiable vascular risk factors that likely contribute to an increased risk of dementia in people with type 2 diabetes. We also hope to extrapolate our findings to behavioral weight loss and brain health.
Current funding includes a five-year National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging grant: Modifiable Cardiovascular Factors Linking Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease; R01AG055624.
Our researchers offer training in neurocognitive testing to NYU Grossman School of Medicine students, as well as graduate students from NYU who are pursuing a master’s or doctorate in psychology. Trainees gain hands-on experience during our neurometabolic research studies.
Our research faculty are experts in how metabolic disease affects the brain.
For more information about our research on the effect of obesity-associated metabolic disease on the brain, please contact Dr. Convit at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-263-7565.
Our researchers publish in prestigious peer-reviewed journals. Our most recent publications are below.
Cognitive functions among predominantly minority urban adolescents with metabolic syndrome
Applied neuropsychology. Child. 2018 Apr-Jun; 7:157-163
Lifestyle and vascular risk effects on MRI-based biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease: a cross-sectional study of middle-aged adults from the broader New York City area
BMJ open. 2018 03 23; 8:e019362
Asian Adolescents with Excess Weight are at Higher Risk for Insulin Resistance than Non-Asian Peers
Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 11 ; 25:1974-1979
Insulin resistance among obese middle-aged is associated with decreased cerebrovascular reactivity
Neurology. 2017 Jul 18; 89:249-255
Obese Adolescents Show Reduced Cognitive Processing Speed Compared with Healthy Weight Peers
Childhood obesity. 2017 Jun ; 13:190-196
Insulin Sensitivity and Inflammation Mediate the Impact of Fitness on Cerebrovascular Health in Adolescents
Childhood obesity. 2017 Jun ; 13:205-212
Does Inflammation Mediate the Association Between Obesity and Insulin Resistance?
Inflammation. 2016 Jun ; 39:994-1003
Fitness, insulin sensitivity, and frontal lobe integrity in adults with overweight and obesity
Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 06 ; 24:1283-9