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Adult astrocytes are key to adult learning and memory, that's life!
on 30 April 2020
Asterix, the main man

While we know that being calm makes life feel better, we also know that the world is a dangerous place, it's a dog eat dog world and if you don't get "them," they'll get you; right? Well, actually, no, that's not the way life should be, hypnotherapy will help you create a life of real value, real pleasure but how? Read on . . . 

Hear the word Astrocyte and you may be forgiven for thinking of the famous Parisian  theme "Parc Asterix!" In reality, astrocytes are much closer to home; your brain is awash with them. They are a type of glial (support) cell in the brain and play a major role in supplying our brain cells (neurons) with nutrients (from what we eat), through blood vessels. They also play a role in regulating the way our brain's cells function, by way of monitoring and influencing synaptic transmission. While we are aware of the important role of synaptic transmission, via pre and postsynaptic terminals, less known is the role of astrocytes. They wrap around the pre and postsynaptic neuron terminal forming an astrocytic process, which monitors and regulates synaptic processes, all the way into the nucleus itself. Astrocytic processes also vacuum up synaptic cleft leftovers of glutamate and turn it into glutamine for synaptic recycling and reuse. They also play a role in regulating ions and use calcium instead of electrical currents to communicate with neurons and each other. So, all in all, astrocytes play a very important role in the way our brain functions! 

What I found interesting in this research, is that the genetically modified mouse model brain only showed a functional deficiency in the hippocampus. It is in the subgranular zone, part of the dentate gyrus (a region of the hippocampus), where astrocytes are found and they come in two forms, horizontal and radial astrocytes. Radial astrocytes are synonymous with radial glial cells, the progenitors of both neural stem cells and other glia, e.g. astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, endothelial, microglia etc. At this point you may be thinking, OK, I get it but what has this go to do with hypnosis? Well, stress, as in, the presence of higher concentrations of glucocorticoids (stress hormones), is well known to affect the number and quality of neural stem cells. Basically, a brain that has a fewer and lower quality of neural stem cells, is a brain that is not going to perform well. It will lead to deficits in memory recall (test anxiety) and interferes in the process of learning and memory formation.

Of course, this is applicable mostly, if not exclusively, to chronic, not acute stress. The brain is very well positioned to function with normal (acute) levels of stress, it is both protective and adaptive in nature. However, when we experience too much stress, too often and for increasingly longer periods of time, our defensive system malfunctions. We enter a phase called hyperarousal, it's as if our foot gets stuck on the accelerator! We pull up at the lights (sit in front of the TV), take our foot off the accelerator and the engine (heart) keeps on racing! This evolves into varying forms of anxiety disorders. What determines the nature of the anxiety disorder, is, in large part, determined by our life experience, plus a teeny of genetic influence. That is why your doctor asks if any relatives have suffered from depression or anxiety etc! 

Another very important function of glial cells is their role as the brain's waste disposal system, in which microglia play a more active role. Microglia are to the brain, what Dyson is to the home!. Brain waste cleanup occurs, in part, as a consequence of the flow of cerebral spinal fluid throughout the entire central nervous system (brain and spinal column). An important part of that process involves water, aquaporin 4 to be precise. The way our brain efficiently rids itself of metabolic toxic waste, determines, in no small measure, the overall health of our brain. A breakdown of the function of the brain's waste disposal system, of which stress/glucocorticoids play a part, is believed to contribute to the accumulation of Beta-Amyloid and the dysfunctional response of a protein called tau. Tau aids the processes of microtubules within the cell nucleus. However, when it starts to go south, the tau breaks away and clumps together, disrupting the way the intracellular activity performs. Beta-Amyloid, the plaque involved in the onset of Alzheimer's disease, begins to form into clumps, which exacerbate the problem, leading to Alzheimer's disease. Oddly, or perhaps not, the problem of tau and beta-amyloid, dysregulation, also begins in the hippocampus but in another part, the entorhinal cortex. And this explains why short term memory deficits are the initial observable aspects of the disease. So, all in all, keeping a cool head, maintaining a more prevalent state of calmness, could help you remain more mentally healthy for many years to come. Being calm probably plays a greater role in keeping Alzheimer's at bay, than the belief that playing games and doing puzzles, as in, keeping the white and grey stuff busy, does. Hypnotherapy is probably one of the most efficient methods at creating this inner calm at a neuronal level and perhaps, the metabolic one too. Essentially, it works in the background, deep down within the important parts of the brain; where life, as a process, occurs! Many of the areas of the brain, that relate to its evolutionary, primordial function, are these deeper levels. The more observable aspects of our humanness, solving problems, new discoveries, creativity etc. are more related to the newer, evolutionary, part of the brain, the neocortex. However, whenever we are challenged or threatened, the deeper, primordial, parts takeover, essentially they short-circuit our higher logical and cognitive self and we become more animal in our function. Violence and aggression is the most demonstrative aspect of our animal type behaviour and the more anxious/stressed we are, the greater the potential to malfunction! 

However, every client has to play a certain conscious role in their own healing. This comes as a consequence of four very important lifestyle habits. 1. Good breathing behaviours, 2. proper and regular hydration, 3. a good and nutritious diet and 4. good and restful sleep. Breathing is the only way we can get oxygen into our body. So it follows that the more there is of it, the better it is. However, only 21% of the air we breathe contains oxygen; so clearly, we need to breathe differently if we want to thrive neurologically. Hydration plays a critical role, especially in the brain, where it is believed, it makes up approx. 88% of the brain. Food/nutrition, again, is the only way we can ingest the essential amino acids, fats, proteins and carbs the brain needs. In order to amply supply our neurons with the resources, it needs to make its own proteins, which are necessary for normal brain function. sleep, well, that is the part of life where the brain does its maintenance (inc waste disposal), refills the shelves of the pharmacy with all the necessary chemicals, nutrients and prepares us for the day ahead. It is also during sleep, that the brain consolidates and reconsolidates memories, these are essential for learning and building our abilities and skills. Think of learning to drive or learning a new language, both hugely dependent on turning new learning into varying types of memory! These memories come in the form of implicit, non-declarative, procedural (and emotional) memory and explicit, declarative, autobiographical, semantic memory systems. When it comes to disorders like anxiety, we are far more driven by the implicit memory system. This works largely outside of our conscious experience of life, hence why we are so illogically and irrationally responsive, in a negative way, when we are stressed. 

While the research into the important role played by glial cells, specifically, astrocytes in this piece, is in its early stages. As such, we can best protect ourselves with what we already know about how stress affects the production, number and quality of neural stem cells, of which radial astrocytes, are an integral part of this dynamic process? Hypnotherapy comes into the picture because it is an increasingly effective method of creating calmness in specific brain functions. The calmer the brain, the better its output, unless of course, we are in real danger. That is when the natural functioning of the brain's defensive mechanisms (sympathetic nervous system response) takes over and for limited timeframes, this is perfectly fine. After the danger has passed, the brain's parasympathetic nervous system response (aka the relaxation response), kicks back in and the brain begins to flourish again. A flourishing brain is like a perennial garden of beauty! A stressed brain is like a garden full of weeds! Hypnosis is merely the gardener of life itself, weeding creates a place of resplendent beauty!

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little or poor quality sleep and too little by way of mental and emotional clarity! So, to get or take back control of your mind and your life, it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious brain's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states of mind that make life work better! If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want the ability to make your life feel better, then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life! 

My objective is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into emotional experiences that may actually be happening but for reasons, we may never have imagined! If you want to know more about Hypnotherapy, why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here


The Research:

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine reveal that astrocytes, the most abundant cells in the brain, play a direct role in the regulation of neuronal circuits involved in learning and memory. The findings appear in the journal Neuron.

"It has become increasingly clear that astrocytes are much more than supportive cells in the healthy adult brain. They play a direct role in a wide variety of complex and essential functions, including neuronal communication through synapses and regulation of neural circuit functions," said corresponding author Dr Benjamin Deneen, professor of neurosurgery and a member of the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at Baylor. "In this study, we show a new role of astrocytes in normal brain function."

Previous work showed that astrocytes comprise diverse populations with unique cellular, molecular and functional properties. They occupy distinct brain regions, indicating regional specialization. There is evidence suggesting that transcription factors -- proteins involved in controlling gene expression -- regulate astrocyte diversity. Deneen and his colleagues looked to get a better understanding of the role transcription factor NFIA, a known regulator of astrocyte development, played in adult mouse brain functions.

The researchers worked with a mouse model they had genetically engineered to lack the NFIA gene specifically in adult astrocytes in the entire brain. They analyzed several brain regions, looking for alterations in astrocyte morphology, physiology and gene expression signatures.

"We found that NFIA-deficient astrocytes presented defective shapes and altered functions," said Deneen, who holds the Dr Russell J. and Marian K. Blattner Chair and is a member of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor. "Surprisingly, although the NFIA gene was eliminated in all brain regions, only the astrocytes in the hippocampus were severely altered. Other regions, such as the cortex and the brain stem, were not affected."

Astrocytes in the hippocampus also had less calcium activity -- calcium is an indicator of astrocyte function -- as well as a reduced ability to detect neurotransmitters released from neurons. NFIA-deficient astrocytes also were not as closely associated with neurons as normal astrocytes.

Importantly, all these morphological and functional alterations were linked to defects in the animals' ability to learn and remember, providing the first evidence that astrocytes are to some extent controlling the neuronal circuits that mediate learning and memory.

"Astrocytes in the brain are physically close to and communicate with neurons. Neurons release molecules that astrocytes can detect and respond to," Deneen said. "We propose that NFIA-deficient astrocytes are not able to 'listen' to neurons as well as normal astrocytes, and, therefore, they cannot respond appropriately by providing the support needed for efficient memory circuit function and neuronal transmission. Consequently, the circuit is disrupted, leading to impaired learning and memory."


Story Source:

Materials provided by Baylor College of MedicineNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Anna Yu-Szu Huang, Junsung Woo, Debosmita Sardar, Brittney Lozzi, Navish A. Bosquez Huerta, Chia-Ching John Lin, Daniela Felice, Antrix Jain, Adriana Paulucci-Holthauzen, Benjamin Deneen. Region-Specific Transcriptional Control of Astrocyte Function Oversees Local Circuit ActivitiesNeuron, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.03.025

Cite This Page:

Baylor College of Medicine. "Adult astrocytes are key to learning and memory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200423174045.htm>