Presidential Address: LINKS BETWEEN OBESITY AND COGNITIVE FUNCTION ACROSS THE LIFESPAN: A “PERFECT STORM” ON THE HORIZON?
A perfect storm is said to occur when two or more pernicious events combine to produce a calamity of far greater magnitude than would have been produced by either event alone. This talk will present data collected from human and nonhuman animal models which link factors that promote obesity to deficits in cognitive function. This association appears to emerge early in life and may result in progressive deterioration of cognitive function across the lifespan. Other evidence indicates that cognitive decline is accompanied by a signs of pathology in the hippocampus and other brain substrates for learning and memory. In fact, impairments in hippocampal-dependent cognitive functions may be a cause as well as a consequence of excessive energy intake and body weight gain. These types of findings raise the disturbing possibility that challenges to human health and welfare posed by the current global obesity pandemic may be magnified by increased incidence of serious cognitive impairment later in life.