Memories, a matter of fatty acids

THE ESSENTIAL

  • The changes in the levels of saturated fat in brain cells were most marked, especially that of myristic acid.
  • During the formation of memories, the changes in the levels of saturated fat in brain cells were most marked, especially that of myristic acid.
  • Fatty acids are essential for communication between nerve cells.
  • The highest concentration of saturated fatty acids was found in the amygdala, the part of the brain involved in forming new memories.

The formation of memories remains misunderstood and continues to intrigue researchers. Recently, scientists have estimated that the first memories go back to the age of two and a half. Others have suggested that to better remember an event, it is better to exaggerate the differences between two similar memories. In a new research, published on June 8 in the journal Nature Communications, Australian scientists found that saturated fatty acid levels unexpectedly increase in the brain during memory formation.

An unexpected discovery

Traditionally, it is polyunsaturated fatty acids that are considered important for health and memory. These are omega-3s and omega-6s. The body cannot make them and they are provided through food. Several previous studies have highlighted their benefits against cognitive decline.

In this new study, the researchers highlighted the role, which they describe as “unexpected”, Saturated fatty acids. “We tested the most common fatty acids to see how their levels changed as new memories formed in the brain, says Tristan Wallis, lead author of the study. Unexpectedly, the changes in saturated fat levels in brain cells were most marked, especially that of myristic acid, which is found in coconut oil and butter..”

A better understanding of synaptic plasticity

The brain is the fattest organ in the body, made up of 60% fat, which provides energy, structure and helps pass messages between brain cells, recalls the researcher. Fatty acids are the building blocks of lipids or fats and are essential for communication between nerve cells because they help synaptic vesicles – microscopic bags containing neurotransmitters – to fuse with the cell membrane and transmit messages between them. cells. We have already shown that when brain cells communicate with each other, the levels of saturated fatty acids increase..”

For this study, the researchers conducted experiments on the brains of rats. They noticed that the levels of fatty acids, and especially saturated fatty acids, increase as memories are formed. They then used a drug to block learning and memory formation, and noticed that the fatty acid levels didn’t change. The highest concentration of saturated fatty acids was found in the amygdala, the part of the brain involved in forming new memories specifically related to fear and strong emotions.

This research has huge implications for our understanding of synaptic plasticity – the change that occurs at the junctions between neurons that allow them to communicate, learn, and build memories., welcomes Professor Pankaj Sah, co-author of the study. ”


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