Memory Improvements Review
By Wendy Wells, NMD.
How can we grow new brain cells, and protect our existing ones? Adult neurogenesis research may help provide answers for reducing "senior moments."
By definition, neurogenesis is the production of new neurons, astrocytes, and glia from neural progenitor stem cells. Researchers now accept that neurogenesis occurs in two brain regions in adult mammals, the hippocampus and olfactory bulb. In both regions new neurons arise from a resident population of progenitor cells that are maintained throughout adult life. 1
The serious loss of cognitive abilities, known as Dementia, is increasing as older adult populations expand. Researchers admit that in the absence of effective therapies, preventive approaches are essential to address this public health problem.
What are the Causes of Memory Decline?
- Lack of Sleep
- Cellular Inflammation
- Toxic Pollution, Free Radicals
- Myelin Cell Degradation
- Brain Slows with Age
Oligodendroglia are the cells that form and maintain myelin sheaths.
The Sleep Factor
A small amount sleep loss can interfere with the process of neurogenesis as associated with learning processes. Extended sleep loss can effect the rate of cellular reproduction and repair of the Hippocampus. 2
See also: Better memory requires better sleep
The Inflamed Brain
In chronic autoimmune diseases of the central nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis, clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction have been associated with structural changes in the hippocampus. This indicates how inflammatory responses within the central nervous system controls newborn cells in the adult dentate gyrus, a specific area of the Hippocampus. 3
The dentate Gyrus is a part of the hippocampus formation thought to contribute to new memories. For example, researchers in Germany found the shape of the environment, in which rats are exploring, can substantially alter correlated activity patterns among cells in the dentate gyrus. 4
Myelin Sheath and Bare Wires
What impairs our brain's wiring? Researchers believe that the white matter surrounding nerve cells, called myelin, acts like protective electrical insulation, covering our conductive neural wires.
The loss of myelin's protective layer results in nerve fibers becoming exposed, losing their conductive signaling ability.
Myelin protects the nerve cells, so impulses can travel along them free of corruption or diversion. With age myelin deteriorates, nerve fibers begin to fray, resulting in forgetfulness. 5
Free Radicals - Run'n All Around The Brain
Changes in the brain can be the result of decades of exposure to a wide range of free-radical toxins, causing oxidative stress. Research reveals that oxidative stress provides the pathogenesis of many nuero-degenerative diseases. 6
List of Neuro-degenerative Diseases:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Friedreich's ataxia
- Huntington's disease
- Lewy body disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Spinal muscular atrophy
Since the brain contains a large amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, consumes up to 20% of oxygen used by the whole body, and shows low antioxidant activity, it seems to be especially vulnerable to oxidative stress. 7
Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that damage healthy cells. Over time, this oxidation process can also cause dangerous amyloid plaques to form in the brain.
Amyloid plaques also destroys mitochondria, a cell's energy-producing power plant. As a result the brain doesn't make enough energy to work efficiently. This makes the brain slow down even more by disrupting axonal signal transport. 8
There is a strong relationship between beta-amyloid deposits and brain cell atrophy. This can occur very early in the disease process, perhaps before symptoms are recognized, as the disease progresses from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer disease. Aggregated beta-amyloid deposits might be responsible for this ongoing disease process. 9
Brain Speed Slows With Age
As humans age, sensory responses decline, while neural data transmission rates slow. These changes could contribute to age-related impairments in the brain's processing of sensory information. Studies in older animals indicate that conduction velocity (i.e., the speed at which an action potential travels down the axon) decreases for a wide range of nerve cells including, neocortical, cerebellar, as well as, peripheral sensory and motor neurons. The cause of this reduced conduction velocity is unclear, but it may result from alterations in the myelin sheath. 10
The micro-architecture of white matter called myelin, influences the speed of signal transduction along axons. This in turn may slow the signaling abilities and potential firing action and responsiveness. 11
A fully active brain, ignites specifically distributed binding circuits that allow rapid and early development of speech acquisition and semantic understanding. Near instant signal activity within a complex web of circuits, researchers measure the conduction delays between cells in various regions of the brain, accounting for comprehension related activation differences in the millisecond range. 12
Nutritional Approaches Affecting Memory Decline and Enhancement
How do we overcome the challenges of limited sleep, dietary inflammation and toxic accumulations that damages myelin, which in turn effects brain speed with age? Below are the nutritional approaches researchers are studying that have been shown to offer positive effects for better cognition.
Limiting Brain Inflammation
Lowering the risk of Alzheimer's disease by ingesting certain nutrients was published in the April 2010 issue of Archives of Neurology and suggests that a diet combining key super foods may prevent Alzheimer's. The nutrients identified include folate, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are believed to reduce inflammation, which has been shown to play a role in Alzheimer's disease.
High levels of this amino acid in the blood have been linked to reducing Alzheimer's disease, creating plaque that is less toxic, or inflammatory.
Leafy green such as kale and spinach are high in folate. Black-eyed peas, Great Northern white beans and other legumes are also rich in this valuable nutrient. 13
Cold-water fish such as salmon and sardines are high in omega-3s, we well as flaxseed oil. Walnuts and almonds contain high levels both omega-3s and vitamin E, making them solid choices that do double duty in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. 15
The curry spice curcumin reduces oxidative damage and amyloid pathology in an Alzheimer transgenic mouse. 16
Resveratrol has been shown to provide 50% decreases the activity of inflammatory cytokines, suggests a mechanism for reducing mortality in cardiovascular disease and cancer. Resveratrol inhibits COX-1 and COX-2. 17
Researchers in Argentina, from the Laboratorio de Biologia del Comportamiento, have demonstrated for the first time how learning a reward-dependent task, promotes neurogenesis, astrogliogenesis, survival and neuronal maturation. 18
Learning new dance steps can help create new neural pathways. The Bronx Aging Study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reviewed 500 people for more than 20 years, documenting the relationship between learning activities and brain health. Participants in the study who engaged in mentally stimulating activities, including interactive games, and dancing, four times a week, showed 65 to 75 % better probability of high cognitive functions over those who did not participate in learning activities.
Researchers have found a specific area of the brain called the Hippocampus where neurogenesis is associated with cognitive disorders and depression. 19
A growing body of research indicates key dietary supplementation maydelay the progression of age-related cognitive decline. The nutrients listed below have been shown to limit oxidative damage to brain cells, while improving mental and learning performance. 20
- Alpha-glycerophosphoryl choline - Alpha-Glycerophosphoryl Choline in the mental recovery of cerebral ischemic attacks. An Italian multi center clinical trial. PMID:8030842
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) Cognitive and cardiovascular benefits of docosahexaenoic acid in aging and cognitive decline. PMID:20088810
Other beneficial brain nutrients include, folic acid, B12, vitamin E, s-adenosylmethionine, n-acetyl cysteine, and have been shown to improve cognitive performance in Alzheimer's disease. 21
Here's a list of functional nutrients that have been shown to effect cognitive functioning and chronic neuro-degenerative diseases. Each individual has specific supplement and dosage needs based on symptoms, blood work and other testing. Below are some of recommendations
- Low Calorie, Low Carb Diet, lots of wild caught salmon, nuts, organic berries
Exposure to mercury can speed up mental decline. The heavy metal, mercury, is recognized as a potent and widely distributed toxin having the ability to accumulate at various levels of food chain besides possessing ability to cross placental and blood-brain barrier. 23
More Neurotransmitters via Choline
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter. To make acetylcholine, our brain needs a nutrient called choline. Choline deficiency appears to activate brain cell death. 27
When animals and humans are deprived of choline, they circulate more methyl-THF into homocysteine, found within the liver, thereby increasing requirements for dietary folate. Conversely, when they are deprived of folate, they use more methyl groups from choline, increasing the dietary requirement for choline. 28
A specific form of choline called, Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine, induced the most notable effects, over other phosolipid choline types, throughout the differentiation processes of astroglial cell's proliferation, and development. 29
Bacopa Leaf - GABA Neurotransmitter Effects
GABA is a crucial neurotransmitter that calms the mind and filters out distractions. When the brain doesn't make enough of it, thinking is impaired, and concentration is limited.
A natural herbcalled bacopa monnieri is used an indian cooking spice, but it also provides neural cell support. In one study, Bacopa significantly improved memory acquisition and retention in healthy older Australians. This study validates previous findings and traditional use. 30
Breathing Boosts Brain Functions
It's no surprise that when our brain doesn't get enough oxygen, memory and thinking suffer.
Blood flow carries' oxygen to the brain, helping memory and preventing mental decline.
Low awake oxygen values mark individuals with low cerebral oxygen reserves and generally lower cognitive function. Marginal awake oxygen values that fall during sleep may indicate loss of cerebral oxygen reserve and an increased risk for cognitive decline. 33
One study has demonstrated how breathing through each nostril effects different sides of the brain. Breathing through the left nostril, affected the right hemisphere of the brain, where increased spacial skills where observed. Breathing through the right nostril affected the left cerebral hemisphere, an area known for processing verbal skills. 34
A type of yoga breathing exercise called Sudarshan Kriya Yoga meditation was shown to increase hearing memory. This yoga exercise begins with breathing exercises, and ends with concentrative (Sahaj Samadhi) meditation. Researchers where able to show how concentrative meditation practice enhances pre attentive hearing processes, enabling better detection in auditory sensory memory. 35
Due to various stresses over time, the DNA of brain cells become fragmented. 36 Niacinamide, or niacin, also named vitamin B3, has not been shown to have any effect on beta-amyloid formation, a common marker of Alzheimer's. However, the administration of niacin has been associated with the creation of microtubules. Micro tubles are tiny pathways in the neural axion, shuttling packets of information from neuron to neuron. Niacin has the effect of producing wider and stronger neural microtubule pathways. 37
Periwinkle PlantExtract - Vinpocetine
Periwinkle extract is called vinpocetine. It's been researched and used in Europe for more than two decades. Studies show it helps people recall new information more easily.
Observed beneficial effects of vinpocetine on spatial memory may be due to its ability to favorably modulate cholinergic functions, prevent neuronal cell damage, possibly through it's antioxidant mechanisms. 38
Ginkgo Biloba Herb
Ginkgo Biloba has long been used in Chinese medicine to boost memory and heart health. Alternative doctors have recommended it for decades. Ginkgo Biloba was found significantly superior to placebo in the treatment of patients with dementia with neuropsychiatric symptoms. 39
A double-blind trial conducted at the National Medical University, in Kyiv, Ukraine, included 400 patients aged 50 years or above with Alzheimer's disease, and vascular dementia, received either a Gingko extract called "EGb 761," or a placebo for 22 weeks. The EGb 761 treatment group showed cognitive testing improvements while the placebo group showed a deterioration on their testing scores. 40
Blueberry Fruit and Antioxidants
Antioxidants help ward off the effects of free-radical damage. One of the most powerful antioxidants is the common blueberry. USDA researchers now know blueberries have the highest levels of free-radical fighters compared to over 40 other fruits and vegetables.
Studies show adaily dose of blueberries juice helps keep a sharp memory while fighting off amyloid brain deposits. 41
Blueberries contain polyphenolic compounds, most prominently anthocyanins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, anthocyanins have been associated with increased signaling in brain centers, mediating memory function, as well as, improved glucose disposal, benefits that would prevent neuro-degeneration. 42
In 2010 at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, Concord grape juice was shown to enhance cognitive function for older adults with early memory decline. 43
Caffeine and Coffee
Study results indicate a surprising ability of moderate caffeine intake (the human equivalent of 500 mg caffeine or 5 cups of coffee per day) to protect against or treat Alzheimer's disease in a mouse model for the disease and a therapeutic potential for caffeine against Alzheimer's disease in humans. 44
Alzheimer's diseased mice given a moderate level of caffeine intake (the human equivalent of 5 cups of coffee per day) are protected from development of otherwise certain cognitive impairment and have decreased hippocampal amyloid-beta (Abeta) levels due to suppression of two proteins, beta-secretase and presenilin 1/gamma-secretase. 45
Insulin-like growth factor-I, platelet-derived growth factor, fibroblast growth factor, and ciliary neurotrophic factor are multifunctional growth factors which are found in the central nervous system. Oligodendroglia are the cells that form and maintain myelin sheaths and many in vitro experiments have shown that these growth factors promote the proliferation, differentiation and survival of oligodendroglial cells. 47
Researchers at the Josef Hospital, Ruhr-University Bochum, in Germany set out to demonstrate how inflammation and oxidative stress are thought to promote tissue damage in multiple sclerosis. Therapeutic application of dimethylfumarate ameliorated the disease course and improved preservation of myelin, axons, neurons and astrocyte activation, providing neuro protective mechanism of action. 48
Natural Sources of Fumaric Acid:
- Cultured foods
Memory improvements using stress reduction techniques.
Amino Acids / Growth Factors
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Acetyl L-Carnitine
- Alpha-Glycerylphosphoryl Choline
- Leafy Greens
- Nuts, Olive Oil
- Omega 3
- Coffee, Caffine
- Fumaric Acid
Plants / Extracts
Body / Mind
- Active Learning
- Stress Reduction
- Eat a Healthy Diet
- Avoiding foods high in sugars - Eating sugar stimulates the production of serotonin, and dopamine which gives the body a false sense of "high". The cells create more receptors for these neurotransmitters, resulting in a drop or "low" when these neurotransmitters are at their normal levels. Hence, eating sugar often can create dependency and mood swings.
- Well established research studies show exercise increases endorphins and serotonin, increasing our ability to focus, lessening anxiety and improving mood.
- Avoid environmental toxins
- Toxins interfere with or block specific pathways of production of neurotransmitters.
- Develop a consistent sleep schedule
- Circadian rhythm is important in neurotransmitter balance.
A review of nutrients and botanicals in the integrative management of cognitive dysfunction. PMID:10383479
Covering the latest neuroscience research on adult neurogenesis, memory and plasticity. www.functional neurogenesis.com
Increasing Neurogenesis Might Prevent Drug Addiction and Relapse www.sciencedaily.com
Memory Assessment Tests
Short-term interactive memory test:washington.edu
Memory test from Psych Today, holds more value: psychologytoday.com
1. Research update: neurogenesis in adult brain and neuropsychiatric disorders. PMID:17195878
2. New neurons in the adult brain: the role of sleep and consequences of sleep loss. PMID:18848476
3. Modulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis during myelin-directed autoimmune neuro inflammation. PMID:20967885
4. Pattern separation in the dentate gyrus and CA3 of the hippocampus. PMID:17303747
5. Age-related myelin breakdown: a developmental model of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. Department of Neurology, UCLA Alzheimer's Disease Center, Los Angeles, CA 90095 PMID:14675724
6. The influence of reactive oxygen species on the central nervous system. PMID:21357998
7. The influence of reactive oxygen species on the central nervous system. PMID:21357998
8. Mechanisms of amyloid plaque pathogenesis. PMID:17805553
9. Relationship between atrophy and beta-amyloid deposition in Alzheimer disease. PMID:20373343
10. Neurophysiology of Old Neurons and Synapses. PMID:21204354
11. Microstructure of Frontoparietal Connections Predicts Cortical Responsivity and Working Memory Performance. PMID:21350048
12. Understanding in an instant: neurophysiological evidence for mechanistic language circuits in the brain. PMID:19664815
16. Journal of Neuroscience 2001 Nov 1;21(21):8370-7. PMID:11606625
18. Learning an operant conditioning task differentially induces gliogenesis in the medial prefrontal cortex and neurogenesis in the hippocampus. PMID:21364751
19. Life-long hippocampal neurogenesis: environmental, pharmacological and neuro chemical modulations. PMID:17406979
20. Dietary supplementation reduces oxidative damage to murine brain and improves cognitive performance. PMID:19185780
21. A vitamin, nutriceutical formulation improves memory and cognitive performance in community-dwelling adults without dementia. PMID:20191258
22. Folic acid with or without vitamin B12 for the prevention and treatment of healthy elderly and demented people. PMID:18843658
23. Glutathione as an antioxidant in inorganic mercury induced nephrotoxicity. PMID:
27. The addition of choline to parenteral nutrition. PMID:19874943
28. Diet, methyl donors and DNA methylation: interactions between dietary folate, methionine and choline. PMID:12163687
29. Effect of choline-containing phospholipids on transglutaminase activity in primary astroglial cell cultures. PMID:19021029
30. Does Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance in older persons? Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. PMID:20590480
33. Cerebral oxygenation in wake and during sleep and its relationship to cognitive function in community-dwelling older adults without sleep disordered breathing. PMID:21076087
34. Immediate effects of right and left nostril breathing on verbal and spatial scores. PMID:19130866
35. Concentrative meditation enhances pre attentive processing: a mismatch negativity study. PMID:17921873
36. The effects of aging and neuro degeneration on apoptosis-associated DNA fragmentation and the benefits of nicotinamide. PMID:9437658
37. Nicotinamide restores cognition in Alzheimer's disease transgenic mice via a mechanism involving sirtuin inhibition and selective reduction of Thr231-phosphotau. PMID:18987186
38. Amelioration of intracerebroventricular streptozotocin induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative stress by vinpocetine, a PDE1 inhibitor. PMID:19699735
39. Efficacy and safety of a once-daily formulation of Ginkgo Biloba extract EGb 761 in dementia with neuropsychiatric features: a randomized controlled trial. PMID:21140383
40. Ginkgo biloba special extract in dementia with neuropsychiatric features. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. PMID:17341003
41. Age-related toxicity of amyloid-beta associated with increased pERK and pCREB in primary hippocampal neurons: reversal by blueberry extract. PMID
42. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. PMID:20047325
43. Concord grape juice supplementation improves memory function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. PMID:20028599
44. Caffeine and coffee as therapeutics against Alzheimer's disease. PMID:20182037
45. Caffeine reverses cognitive impairment and decreases brain amyloid-beta levels in aged Alzheimer's disease mice. PMID:19581722
46. (Xu 1995),(Cheng 1996) PMID:
47. Growth factors and myelin regeneration in multiple sclerosis. PMID:9291164
48. Fumaric acid esters exert neuro protective effects in neuro inflammation via activation of the Nrf2 antioxidant pathway. PMID:21354971
49. Cinnamophilin a novel thromboxane A2 receptor antagonist, isolated from Cinnamomum philippinense. PMID:8026563
50. Cinnamophilin offers prolonged neuro protection against gray and white matter damage and improves functional and electrophysiological outcomes after transient focal cerebral ischemia. PMID:21283002
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