Various fatty acids contained in certain foods have been shown to play a very important role in storing memories and therefore in learning. This suggests that diet offers a simple and effective way to improve memory.
A new study examined the mechanisms by which phospholipids and free fatty acids influence the brain and, in particular, learning and memory. The results can be read in the English-language “EMBO Journal”.
Role of phospholipids and free fatty acids
Phospholipids and free fatty acids (FFA) are found in a variety of foods, especially those containing natural fats and oils. And the composition of phospholipids and FFA in our neuronal membranes is crucial for learning and memory, the researchers explain.
It is known that after neuronal stimulation and the storage of information in memory, the content of saturated free fatty acids (especially myristic acid) increases, indicating an involvement of phospholipase A1 (PLA1) activity in synaptic plasticity
However, the mechanisms by which the so-called lipid landscape of the brain influences neuronal activity are still largely unexplored.
Effects on memory
Experiments with mice have now shown that the genetic loss of the PLA1 isoform DDHD2 drastically reduces the response of saturated fatty acids to memory storage throughout the brain.
Additionally, loss of DDHD2 also reduced memory performance in models of reward-based learning and spatial memory before the onset of neuromuscular deficits consistent with spastic paraplegia in humans, the team explains.
The researchers found that DDHD2 binds to the key synaptic protein STXBP1. STXBP1, in turn, influenced the targeting of DDHD2 to the plasma membrane and the formation of saturated free fatty acids in the brain in a mouse model of human neonatal encephalopathy, the experts said.
Overall, they believe the results suggest that DDHD2 and STXBP1 play key roles in lipid metabolism and in processes of synaptic plasticity, learning and memory.
Fatty acids important for the brain
The importance of fatty acids for brain health was also highlighted in an independent research study, which focused on short-chain fatty acids. The corresponding study results are published in the English-language journal “Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience”.
The results of the second study indicate that short-chain fatty acids, which are produced as metabolites by healthy bacteria in the intestinal flora, maintain brain health.
It is also noticeable that people who suffer from Alzheimer’s often have reduced levels of these short-chain fatty acids, the researchers report.
It has also become clear that inhibition of the so-called FFAR2 receptor contributes to the abnormal accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain. If this receptor is not activated by short-chain fatty acids, the deposits typical of Alzheimer’s disease will form in the brain.
According to the research team, the substance that was best able to bind to the active site of the FFAR2 receptor and stimulate its signaling among 144,000 natural products examined was fenchol, which is found in high quantities in basil, for example.
The results of the two research papers show that fatty acids appear to have an important influence on brain health and particularly on memory. Fortunately, it is easy to get enough of the important fatty acids as part of a healthy diet. (as)