Effect of Glucose Levels on the Brain Essays

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Although it constitutes only 2% of the body’s weight, the brain uses approximately 75% of the glucose in the blood, making it the by far the most metabolically expensive organ in the human body (Dunbar, 1998; Kahn, 2005). Glucose (the main type of sugar in the blood) is the primary source of energy for the brain and for the rest of the body. When glucose levels are high, excess glucose is converted and stored as glycogen, which can later be metabolically converted back to glucose and used for energy. The energy cost is especially high for mental tasks that recruit the “central executive,” or the areas of the brain that regulate cognitive and emotional control. These tasks reduce blood glucose levels at higher rates than other mental …show more content…
On the other hand, short-term increases in executive demands (Stroop with all-incongruent trials) result in greater decreases in blood glucose levels than do speeded tasks without those executive requirements (Stroop with all-congruent trials; Fairclough & Houston, 2004). Benton, Owens, & Parker (1994) found that individuals’ intrinsic changes in blood glucose were specifically related to their performance on incongruent-Stroop trials, but an experimental administration to increase glucose did not significantly improve performance. However, they note that the failure to see these effects may have occurred because they did not fatigue their participants’ executive functions before the glucose administration. Another subset of previous work in glucose enhancement of cognitive functioning studied the impact of glucose on episodic and working memory. It has been demonstrated that subjects receiving a glucose drink instead of a placebo show a significant benefit in performance in terms of numbers of words recalled 20 minutes after encoding (Sunram-Lea, Foster, Durlach, & Perez, 2002). Additionally, it was found that a glucose drink improved the memory of a word list in those with poor glucose regulation (Messier, Desrochers, & Gagnon, 1999).
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