Lactate, a molecule that is produced continuously in the muscles and which production is accelerated in the body through physical activity, but also in the brain through intellectual activity, is crucial to generate short-term memory capabilities, according to a study conducted in the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV). The researchers found that this molecule is capable of generating synaptic plasticity processes and very specific synapses in very specific memories recovery processes, said Emilio Galván Espinosa, a CINVESTAV researcher at the Department of Pharmacobiology.
It is very common to see that older people have trouble learning new things, but despite this they have an almost intact ability to remember clearly and accurately many episodes of their childhood life, he said. This fact led the team of neuroscientists to focus on identify the causes of this phenomena, understand why the brain loses its plastic abilities, and found what kind of strategies or exercise can be followed to recover the ability to form new memories at older ages.
“So, our discovery at the moment is that a molecule that we thought was a metabolic waste turns out to be a highly specific modulator of the synapse involved in the generation of new memories,” said the scientist from CINVESTAV.
Physical and mental exercises help to recover the ability to form new memories, said Galván Espinosa and added that everybody should always follow both types of trainings, and more importantly older people. Physical activity, for example, includes walking or running; and mental training includes reading or doing crossword, and puzzle games. In contrast, he said, watching television is one of the not recommended activities, he said.
It has been identified that people who exercise have a greater ability to learn new things when they are older. “In the laboratory, it has been identified that lactate plays an important role in these processes, and therefore we believe that people who have greater physical activity and more intellectual activity tend to generate more memories, which means that their neuronal communication should be in a better state than a person who does not develop any activity. A couple of neurons strengthen their communication when they are constantly being used,” he said.
In explaining his research work, the scientist said his team “focused on identifying the role of lactate in the hippocampus area, which is a region in the brain that has long been known to fundamentally and critically participate in the generation of new memories, but also in the recovery of short-term memories; and it is in this region, without being able to rule out other regions of the brain, where we know that lactate plays a fundamental role in communication and in synaptic plasticity or neuronal communication“.
Source: La Jornada