The possible influence of diabetes on the higher mnestic and cognitive functions has been investigated. The P300 wave latency, an endogenous electrophysiological event, was explored and compared with the multimodal short-latency evoked potential (EP) recordings (visual [VEP], brainstem auditory [BAEP], and median and tibial nerve somatosensory EPs [mSEP and tSEP, respectively]) and psychometric test measures in 16 insulin-dependent diabetic (IDDM) patients, in 16 age- and (IDDM) sex-matched nondiabetic subjects, and in a large normal reference population. The age of subjects, the duration of IDDM, and the metabolic control of patients were taken into account. P300 values were significantly increased in IDDM versus matched control subjects (P < 0.001), and 3 patients showed values above the reference value range. Abnormal VEP recordings were present in 1 of 16 patients, BAEP in 3 of 16, mSEP in 7 of 16, and tSEP in 6 of 16. Digit-span backward test results were significantly (P < 0.02) modified in the diabetic cohort. There was no tendency for anomalies of P300, short-latency EPs, and psychometric test values to be contemporarily present, except in 1 patient. Electrophysiological or psychometric abnormalities were not clearly correlated with the duration of IDDM or the degree of short-term metabolic control. These findings give evidence that 1) higher cognitive functions may be affected in diabetes as documented by P300 analysis and short-term memory tests, 2) endogenous electrophysiological analysis highlights neuropsychological changes not detectable by psychometric tests, 3) an alteration of evoked potentials was present in half of the IDDM subjects studied, and 4) anomalies of the CNS are patchily distributed in diabetes.

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