At ULCA, researchers conducted a study that tested women who regularly consumed yogurt containing the beneficial bacteria probiotics if they had any alteration in brain function compared to women who did not eat yogurt. The study showed that the women who ate the yogurt regularly had an alteration of brain function in both a resting state and in a series of tests for recognizing emotions. Researchers speculated that by changing the bacteria’s environment in the gut could result in changes in the functionality of the brain.
    The study was small, 36 healthy women from ages 18-55. The women were divided into three groups: one group was given yogurt with probiotics twice a day for four weeks, one group was given yogurt that was a look-alike yogurt with no probiotics, and the third group did not have any yogurt. MRI scans done before and after the study to compare the results of the brain’s functionality, researchers found that the women who consumed the probiotics yogurt saw a decrease in the insula, which processes and integrates internal processes, as well as in the somatosensory cortex during the emotional-recognition testing. The women also had a decrease in the widespread network of the brain, dealing with emotion, cognition, and sensory-related areas, while the women who did not eat the probiotic yogurt had increased levels of activity. Furthermore, during the resting brain scan, the probiotic women had a higher connectivity in the brain to cognition, while the women not eating any yogurt saw increase of emotional and sensation activity, and the women on the look-alike yogurt fit between the two extremes.
    Researchers were astounded to find the various brain effects, such as sensations and not just simply emotional responses. The linkage of signals between the intestines and the brain will lead scientists to explore new routes of research in various changes in diet to test for varying levels of brain response and functionality.

By Lauren Horne

1)    Kirsten Tillisch, Jennifer Labus, Lisa Kilpatrick, Zhiguo Jiang, Jean Stains, Bahar Ebrat, Denis Guyonnet, Sophie Legrain-Raspaud, Beatrice Trotin, Bruce Naliboff, Emeran A. Mayer. Consumption of Fermented Milk Product with Probiotic Modulates Brain Activity. Gastroenterology, 2013; DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043
2)    University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences (2013, May 28). Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 29, 2013, from¬ /releases/2013/05/130528180900.htm
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine led a study in which rats were injected with one dose of human neural stem cells which produced improvement of function and mobility, as well as neuronal regeneration in the rats that had an acute spinal cord injury. According to Dr. Martin Marsala, MD, professor of Anesthesiology with colleagues at the University of California, grafting neural stem cells that were derived from a human fetal spinal cord and transferring them to the rats spinal injury site had many therapeutic benefits, ranging from less spasticity of muscles to new connections between the injected stem cells and surviving neurons within the rats. The scientists reported that the human stem cells seemed to take root vigorously at the injury site, aiding the recovery process along to the point where any cavities or cysts that formed at the injury site would disappear when grafted cells were injected.
    The rats received the stem cells exactly three days after sustaining the spinal injury, in addition to several drugs that lessened the immune response of the rats so that their bodies would properly accept the stem calls. The stem cells appeared to stimulate the rat’s neuron regeneration, as well as partially replacing functionality of lost neurons. The rats had greater control of their paws, and overall would now have a much greater quality of life.
    With this knowledge in hand, scientists are working to develop neural precursor cells that could potentially become any one of the three cell types found in the nervous system, leading to induced pluripotent stem cells, which when taken from the patient would aid greatly in the process of spinal injury procedures and treatments.  
1)    Sebastiaan van Gorp, Marjolein Leerink, Osamu Kakinohana, Oleksandr Platoshyn, Camila Santucci, Jan Galik, Elbert A Joosten, Marian Hruska-Plochan, Danielle Goldberg, Silvia Marsala, Karl Johe, Joseph D Ciacci, Martin Marsala. Amelioration of motor/sensory dysfunction and spasticity in a rat model of acute lumbar spinal cord injury by human neural stem cell transplantation. Stem Cell Research & Therapy, 2013; 4 (5): 57 DOI: 10.1186/scrt209
2)    University of California - San Diego (2013, May 27). Stem cell injections improve spinal injuries in rats. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from¬ /releases/2013/05/130527231843.htm
A new study by researchers at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine dramatically underscores the potential role of the NF-kB protein in aging. NF-kB is a master protein which controls many inflammatory chemicals throughout the body. Researchers at the Roskamp Institute have studied NF-kB for many years as a potential way of controlling chronic inflammation which accompanies aging and underlies conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. This new study points to a part of the brain as regulating the aging process. The current view of aging generally suggests that enzymes, DNA, proteins and other constituents of the body essentially “wear out” with age, accumulating damage due to environmental insults until they no longer function properly. This new study suggests something quite different, namely that a part of the brain called the Hypothalamus deliberately induces aging throughout the body. It has been suggested that one reason why the brain might take such drastic action is to inhibit reproduction past a certain age. This suggestion is highly speculative at this stage, but the data offered by the Albert Einstein researchers suggests that, with age, increased NF-kB activity triggers degeneration in both the brain and other areas of the body. The researchers showed that as mice aged, they increasingly expressed NF-kB in the part of the brain that is normally responsible for the production of reproductive and growth hormones. The researchers artificially manipulated NF-kB activity using genetic techniques and showed that reducing NF-kB activity was associated with better performance in cognitive tests, greater muscle strength and greater bone mass and skin thickness. Conversely, exacerbation of NF-kB activity increased all of these peripheral signs of aging, as well as reducing cognitive abilities. Furthermore the research suggested that microglia (the inflammatory cells resident in the brain) are the originators of the NF-kB activity and this spreads to nearby neurons, including those responsible for growth and reproductive hormones. These findings are of direct significance to work at the Roskamp Institute as researchers there have shown that increased NF-kB collates strongly with Alzheimer’s pathology and pathology of other central nervous system disorders. Moreover, they have worked extensively on ways to reduce NF-kB activation, particularly using the naturally occurring compound Anatabine.  Roskamp Institute researchers have shown in multiple preclinical studies of neuroinflammation (such as Alzheimer's, traumatic brain injury and Multiple Sclerosis) that Anatabine (supplied by RockCreek Pharmaceuticals) has potent anti-inflammatory properties. This new finding suggests that NFKB inhibitors might also have a role in decelerating aging. In fact,  preliminary studies at the Roskamp Institute suggest that mortality in mice with Alzheimer pathology is reduced by Anatabine treatment. Additional studies are needed to clarify whether Anatabine might reduce the Hypothalamic inflammation and increase the release of hormones that oppose aging.

Dr. Michael Mullan M.D., Ph.D
President & CEO
Roskamp Institute