Our brains constantly rearrange their structure and function in response to stimuli such as remembering someone’s name or learning a new skill, a process known as brain plasticity. A new study shows that complex sugars could affect this plasticity and impact memory and learning.
The findings, presented at the American Chemical Society (ACS) 2023, show that complex sugar molecules called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) affect plasticity in the brains. The experiment has been conducted only on mice. While the sugars found in fruits, chocolates or cakes are simple varieties of the sugars, when combined they make an array of complex sugars GAGs are formed by attaching other chemical structures, including sulfate groups, according to a press statement by ACS.
Studying GAGs can provide more information about brain plasticity and hopefully, this knowledge can be used to restore or improve neural connections involved in memory, explains Linda Hsieh-Wilson the project’s principal investigator in the statement. “These sugars regulate numerous proteins, and their structures change during development and with disease,” she adds.
Patterns of sulfation, a type of chemical modification, can change the function of GAGs.The researchers observed how this pattern might affect neuroplasticity. For this, they deleted a gene that is important for sulfation patterns on the GAG chondroitin sulphate, according to Medical News Today. The gene deletion changed the types of synaptic connections between neurons. The findings observed the inability to recognise familiar faces, indicating how it affected social memory. This shows that it may be possible to rewire or strengthen brain connections during adolescence and adulthood.
Previous studies have shown that diet can impact brain health. For long, researchers have looked into various foods as a way of keeping the brain healthy. For instance, in March, a study published in the journal Neurology showed that the Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet keeps your brain healthy and young, and can benefit those with Alzheimer’s disease, according to Livemint. Furthermore, in May 2022, a study by researchers from the University of East Anglia (UK) claimed that cranberries--which have been on the superfood list for a while—could help improve memory and lower bad cholesterol, among other things.