Smells Like Teen Synapses: A Look Inside Adolescent Brains and Behaviors

Smells Like Teen Synapses: A Look Inside Adolescent Brains and Behaviors

“I would there were no age between sixteen and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting…”

The old shepherd’s thoughts from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale resonate centuries later when we consider examples of stereotypical teenage behavior – emotional outbursts, angst, and recklessness just to name a few.  But if we dismiss teenagers as lacking emotional discipline, we fail to understand the complex neural underpinnings that drive much of this behavior and allow a concerned adult to guide teens through this critical stage of brain development.Continue reading

Dendritic Spines Knowing Neurons

Keeping Memories Fresh by Keeping Glutamate In Check

We are another year older, perhaps a little wiser, and probably more forgetful.  Indeed, making memories is quite a process in the brain: specific synaptic connections are strengthened and new proteins are synthesized.  But as we age, the synapses that make up our memories, such as those in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, start to change and can be lost altogether.  The detrimental synaptic alterations may not be permanent, however, and maintaining the health of these synapses may be the key to preventing age-related cognitive decline.Continue reading

Your Brain Breathes Too by Knowing Neurons

Your Brain Breathes Too

I live in Los Angeles and it’s unfortunate, but true, that the brown cloud of smog hanging over our city is as much an icon of LA as the Hollywood hills.  My morning bike commute is spent sucking on the tailpipes of my fellow Angelenos, and it turns out this doesn’t just make me cranky.  A recent article published in Neurotoxicology suggests that those of us who live in urban environments are much more likely to experience cognitive decline with age.  The culprit?  Air pollution.Continue reading

Sweet Dreams or Amyloid Nightmares by Knowing Neurons

Sweet Dreams or Amyloid Nightmares

Sleep deprivation has become a badge of honor in our modern society.  Competitions break out in coffee shop lines over who is functioning on the least number of Zzzzzs and living the most fast-paced life.  Bragging rights come with ordering the eye-opener with a triple shot of espresso.  Close our eyes and we risk missing a culturally shocking tweet or a groundbreaking news update.  We know that not getting enough sleep can impair our memory, make us a hazard at the wheel, and contribute to anxiety, but according to recent research, sleep impairments may also contribute to amyloid plaque build-up in the brain and our risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.Continue reading

Magnesium Supplement to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

The human brain contains roughly eighty-six billion (~10^10) neurons, each of which forms approximately ten thousand (10^4) synaptic connections with other neurons. Therefore, on average, there are one hundred trillion (10^14) synapses in the brain! Maintaining the health of these synapses is essential for proper brain function and higher cognitive functions like learning, memory, and emotion. Dysfunction of synaptic function is thought to underlie many types of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and aging related dementia. Those affected with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have severe learning and memory impairments, impaired judgment, severe anxiety and other mood disruptions.Continue reading

Brain Changes for Sculpted, Efficient Memory

While I was growing up, I remember my parents and teachers saying, “Your brain is like a sponge.” Of course, I didn’t understand what they meant, but as cliché as this statement is, it actually reveals a lot about children’s amazing abilities to absorb and remember impressive amounts of information. From new words and concepts, to detailed locations and even foul phrases, I learned to communicate using the complex rules of two languages during my childhood. I looked at the world with wonder, while adapting and making sense of it by remembering its complexities. But as I got older, I grew out of this ultra-powerful learning and memory, as most children do. What changes in our brains as we get older, and how do those changes affect our ability to learn?Continue reading

Mitochondria: More Than Just a Powerhouse

Mitochondria are frequently implicated in several human disease states. From neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Autism Spectrum Disorder, to metabolic conditions like diabetes and obesity, energy abnormalities are seen in diverse illnesses. In fact, mitochondrial dysfunctions have also been shown to be involved in Parkinson’s disease, Down syndrome, heart failure, and even cancer. What is the relevance of these tiny powerhouses in such diverse, seemingly unrelated conditions?Continue reading

When Cellular Power Plants Fail

Humans normally have 23 pairs of chromosomes, but sometimes an error during cell division causes there to be an abnormal number of chromosomes. One of the most common chromosome abnormalities in humans is Down syndrome (DS). In most cases, this occurs when there is an extra copy of chromosome 21, which is called Trisomy 21. It is typically associated with distinct facial features, impaired cognitive functions, and stunted physical growth.  Surprisingly, almost all people with DS also exhibit clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) 10-20 years before it usually occurs in the general population. So, what is the link between DS and AD?Continue reading

A Close Look into the Alzheimer’s Brain

Your brain is able to store massive amounts of memories throughout your lifetime.  There are cases, however, in which this ability progressively degrades and eventually disappears, giving way to problems with thinking, reasoning, and remembering.  When these symptoms occurs faster than normal aging, it is termed dementia.  Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of brain function loss, and its neuropathology are summarized here.Continue reading