Stephanie Kullmann is part of the DZD NEXT Young Talent Program. With her research she wants to enhance brain health to prevent T2D and its complications.
Disturbances in communication between brain regions and the rest of the body may represent a potential link between metabolic and cognitive health. The current project evaluates whether enhancing synaptic plasticity (i.e. communication) of the brain can improve weight management, insulin sensitivity, and cognitive functions. In recent studies, we were able to show that the human brain is sensitive to the hormone insulin with advantageous effects on metabolism and cognition. Persons with abdominal obesity fail to respond to insulin, decreasing their success in lifestyle interventions. Insulin acts on the neurotransmitter dopamine in these regions to influence cognitive processes as impulse control and reward sensitivity. These cognitive functions are compromised in people with diabetes. We want to investigate whether it is possible to enhance neuroplasticity of insulin-responsive brain regions to suppress the weight gain trajectory and improve dopamine-dependent cognitive functions in people with a high risk to develop type 2 diabetes. For this purpose, we will implement state of the art neuroimaging tools using high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess synaptic plasticity of a neural network essential for metabolic and cognitive health.