Brain and Body: A Review of Central Nervous System Contributions to Movement Impairments in Diabetes


Diabetes is associated with a loss of somatosensory and motor function, leading to impairments in gait, balance, and manual dexterity. Data-driven neuroimaging studies frequently report a negative impact of diabetes on sensorimotor regions in the brain; however, relationships with sensorimotor behavior are rarely considered. The goal of this review is to consider existing diabetes neuroimaging evidence through the lens of sensorimotor neuroscience. We review evidence for diabetes-related disruptions to three critical circuits for movement control: the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum, and the basal ganglia. In addition, we discuss how central nervous system (CNS) degeneration might interact with the loss of sensory feedback from the limbs due to peripheral neuropathy to result in motor impairments in individuals with diabetes. We argue that our understanding of movement impairments in individuals with diabetes is incomplete without the consideration of disease complications in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Neuroimaging evidence for disrupted central sensorimotor circuitry suggests that there may be unrecognized behavioral impairments in individuals with diabetes. Applying knowledge from the existing literature on CNS contributions to motor control and motor learning in healthy individuals provides a framework for hypothesis generation for future research on this topic.

  • Received March 27, 2019.
  • Accepted October 20, 2019.

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