Bite-size Science: Epigenetics help protect the aging brain

Epigenetics change which genes are active and which are inactive. Research over the past few years has shown that these changes are important for protecting the brain from neurodegeneration and injury. A review paper came out on May 18th in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience that summarizes this research. Check out the infographic for a description of the review paper.

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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

Tangerines, Tomatoes, and Neuroinflammation! Oh My! Knowing Neurons

Tangerines, Tomatoes, and Neuroinflammation! Oh My!

While we are still in the midst of the flu season, we all try to stay as healthy as possible by consuming large quantities of Vitamin C.  Whether it’s chewable tablets, a powder to mix in your drink, or just plain orange juice, we have all learned the immune-boosting benefits of Vitamin C.  Interestingly, new evidence from citruses and tomatoes show that they may do more than fight the flu.  They can also prevent neuronal loss.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

What a Coincidence!

Coincidence is a peculiar thing. We typically think of a coincidence as the occurrence of two events that happen to occur at the same time, but that have no underlying connection. We all experience coincidences throughout our lives, but rarely attribute any meaning or purpose to them. If, for example, your phone rings at the exact moment that you’re reaching for it, you may be amazed at the coincidence, but you realize that reaching for your phone is not what caused it to ring. Likewise, it is unlikely that the phone will ring the next time you reach for it. These coincidences occur all the time, and we typically brush them off as being completely insignificant. For the brain, however, coincidence carries much more meaning and has far greater significance.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

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