“Synaptic plasticity” refers to the brain’s ability to adjust how neurons connect to and “talk” to each other, which in turn affects how the brain processes information. This process is crucial for all forms of learning and memory – but are there ways to “boost” synaptic plasticity in the brain? In this post, we’ll review what the latest science has to say about some dietary compounds and supplements that may potentially affect synaptic plasticity throughout the brain. Read on to learn more! Synaptic Plasticity: A Quick Review
Synaptic plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to adjust how neurons connect to and “talk” to each other, which in turn affects how the brain processes information.
Synaptic plasticity is critical to our ability to learn and store new knowledge and memories, since the brain has to be able to change its structure in order to encode new information and facts!
Deficits and other changes in the cellular processes underlying synaptic plasticity are also believed to be involved in a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disorders, making it very important for overall brain health and psychological well-being.
P.S: For a more detailed overview of what synaptic plasticity is, how it works, and why it’s important, check out our detailed SelfHacked post all about synaptic plasticity here . Dietary Compounds And Supplements That May Increase Synaptic Plasticity:
According to some preliminary research, there may be a number of foods and dietary compounds that may support or stimulate synaptic plasticity throughout the brain [ 1 , 2 ].
However, whether consuming the foods and supplements below can actually result in noticeable changes in cognitive function is still an open question. While there is some early research with promising results so far, a lot more research will be needed to fully confirm these effects in healthy human users, and so far there is “insufficient evidence” to officially recommend these strategies for enhancing cognitive functions or treating diseases. Therefore, these early findings should be taken with a grain of salt until more extensive research is done to figure out their full effects.
With that in mind, let’s see what some of the latest science has to say about some nutritional compounds and dietary supplements that may potentially help boost synaptic plasticity! INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE:
1) Polyphenols May Stimulate Synaptic Plasticity
Fruits, vegetables, cereals, and beverages contain natural polyphenols . Grapes, apples, pears, cherries, and berries may contain up to 200-300 mg of polyphenols in each 100-gram serving [ 3 ].
Phenolic acids, flavonoids, phenolic amides, resveratrol , lignans, curcumin , rosmarinic acid/caffeic acid, ellagic/gallic acid, and tannins are all specific types of polyphenols [ 4 ].
According to some early research, polyphenols possess unique molecular properties that have been reported to reduce oxidative stress , and may even stimulate the activation of molecules that aid in synaptic plasticity [ 5 ]. 2) Red Wine and Resveratrol May Enhance Learning Ability
Resveratrol is a polyphenol abundant in grapes, red wine, berry fruits, and some nuts [ 4 ].
According to some preliminary animal studies, resveratrol has been reported to increase AMPAR protein levels, AMPAR synaptic accumulation, and the strength of excitatory synaptic transmission in the neurons of rats [ 6 ].
AMPARs are glutamate-associated receptors that are believed to be particularly important for fast excitatory transmission, and synaptic plasticity in general [ 6 ].
In one animal study, resveratrol was reported to significantly enhance the learning ability of diabetic rats. The authors of this study propose that this may be because resveratrol has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, as well as the ability to facilitate hippocampal structural synaptic plasticity [ 7 ].
In another study, six weeks of resveratrol supplementation resulted in normalization of the expression of genes implicated in hippocampal neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity in diabetic mice [ 8 ].
A few more recent studies have reported that resveratrol may activate the SIRT1 gene , an aging-related gene that is believed to have important anti-inflammatory effects [ 9 , 10 ].
Additionally, mice born without the brain-specific SIRT1 gene have been reported to show decreased overall synaptic plasticity [ 11 ]. 3) Green Tea May Improve Memory
The active compounds in green tea are predominantly polyphenols and caffeine . According to one animal study in mice with impaired long-term memory due to abnormal levels of the DYRK1A gene (believed to be involved in learning), green tea polyphenol treatment partially reduced the resulting cognitive deficits [ 12 ].
According to a recent review, green tea polyphenols (such as EGCG ) may help increase cognitive function and mood , while also protecting against various cognitive and psychiatric disorders [ 5 ].
In one 12-participant study (DB-RCT), green tea extract was reported to increase working memory [ 13 ].
Additionally, green tea extract was reported to increase both working and spatial memory in an animal study in mice [ 14 ].
Flavonoids , a group of major constituents of green tea, have also been reported to inhibit cell death triggered by neurotoxic compounds and an increase in synaptic plasticity, according to another review [ 15 ]. 4) Berries May Have Anti-Aging Properties
Some recent studies have reported that berries may potentially help improve cognitive functions. Natural compounds found in many types of berries have been reported to reduce inflammation as well as potentially increase cell survival, neurotransmission, and overall neuroplasticity [ 16 ].
According to some cell- and animal-based studies, aging animals given a blueberry-enriched diet were reported to show an increase in both long-term potentiation and synaptic strength, up to the levels commonly observed in younger animals [ 17 ]. Resveratrol , a phenolic compound abundant in berries, has been reported to protect neurons against amyloid beta-induced toxicity (involved in Alzheimer’s), and may even reduce memory degeneration (in rats) [ 18 ]. 5) Soy May Improve Spatial-Memory Acquisition Soy contains plant-derived, non-steroidal compounds with estrogen-like effects ( phytoestrogens ) [ 19 ].A few preliminary studies have suggested that estrogens may help stimulate learning and memory – at least in women [ 20 , 21 ].In another early study, […]