According to a study reported on in June of 2018 in the medical journal Psychiatry Research and Neuroimaging, keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range is one way to protect a person’s fine motor skills. Scientists at the Australian National University in Canberra and the University of New South Wales in Sydney found people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes had poorer fine motor skills than the individuals who had normal healthy blood sugar levels, due to changes that had taken part in their brain.
Their study included 271 individuals with normal brain function. Their average age was 63 at the time of enrollment…
- a total of 173 had normal fasting blood sugar levels,
- 57 had slightly elevated levels, and
- 41 had Type 2 diabetes.
The participants with Type 2 diabetes had lower scores on a test of fine motor skills and smaller areas of the brain known as the putamen than the individuals with lower blood sugar levels.
The researchers concluded higher blood sugar levels damage the brain structure and function.
The putamen is involved in planning and executing movements. People diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease have damaged putamens, causing tremors and difficulty with voluntary movements. Anyone who has a stroke affecting the right side of the brain, where the putamen is located, can have trouble with motor skills, often moving slowly on the left side of their body.
The Purdue pegboard was used to assess motor skills. It was developed to monitor the skills necessary for assembly work. It measures dexterity in the arms, hands, and fingers, and consists of handling pins, cups, and washers according to instructions.
For some time high blood sugar levels have been known to affect the thinking part of the brain as well. Too much sugar damages the blood vessels throughout the entire body, including the brain’s white matter where thoughts are transmitted. A condition called vascular cognitive impairment or dementia can result, causing problems in thinking. Alzheimer’s disease is more common in people who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes than in healthy individuals with healthy blood sugar readings.
In 1983 in Diabetes Care, the journal of the American Diabetes Association, a study was reported on where both fine motor and thinking skills were impaired at abnormal blood sugar readings, including both high and low levels. And in 1998 the Archives of Disease in Childhood, Fetal and Neonatal Edition, reported on a further study demonstrating poorer scores on tests of motor activity, attention, and hyperactivity in children of diabetic mothers.