LivingObesity affects memory and learning

Obesity affects memory and learning

Recent figures estimate that there are more than 650 million obese people in the world. Now it has just been known that this condition not only damages areas of health such as cardiovascular health or bones, as well as aesthetics and self-esteem . It also affects cognitive abilities such as memory and learning , according to a study carried out by researchers at the American University of Princeton who analyzed obese mice and found that being excessively overweight kills nerve cells in the hippocampus .

One of the lesser known consequences of obesity in humans is its deleterious effects on cognition , something that was already suspected. Now a team of scientists has further studied the cellular mechanisms that influence the cognitive decline associated with chronic obesity.

Elizabeth Gould and her colleagues at the Princeton Institute of Neuroscience and the Department of Psychology at Princeton University studied obesity induced by a high calorie diet in male mice to try to understand how the disease influences the brain. The results showed that in obese mouse brains, rogue immune cells map nerve cell connections that are important for learning and memory , as explained in the Journal of Neuroscience . Like people, high-fat mice gain weight quickly, and after 12 weeks on a high-lipid diet, they weighed nearly 40% more than those fed a normal diet.

The obese mice showed signs of decreased intellectual capacity , says neuroscientist Elizabeth Gould, who recalls that these rodents had a reduced ability to escape mazes and remember the location of an object than normal-weight mice. The scientists responsible for the study explain that in the nerve cells of the mice there are microscopic protrusions called dendritic spines that receive signals , but the obese mice had less protrusion in various areas of the hippocampus, a brain structure important for learning and memory . The destruction of the dendritic spine comes from immune cells called microglia. In obese mice, there were more active microglia lurking between more sparse nerve cell connections compared to normal-weight rodents.

When the researchers intervened in the microglia of obese mice and protected the dendritic spines, they observed an improvement in their performance in cognitive tests, which is why they think that this destruction could be stopped with drugs to protect the brain from attack by the cells immune . Discovering ways to stop microglia damage could also help prevent obesity-related brain problems in the future, a major concern for the world’s 650 million obese adults. Obese people are also at higher risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s , and some researchers suspect that microglia may play a role in brain disease in general.

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