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Amino Acids Found to Restore Function After Brain Injury

Last Updated: December 17, 2009.

Feeding amino acids to mice who have had a traumatic injury to a part of the brain important for learning and memory restores neural activity and cognitive function, according to a study published online Dec. 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

THURSDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Feeding amino acids to mice who have had a traumatic injury to a part of the brain important for learning and memory restores neural activity and cognitive function, according to a study published online Dec. 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jeffrey T. Cole, Ph.D., from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues induced an injury to the limbic hippocampus, a brain structure implicated in higher learning and memory, of mice, leading to cognitive impairment. After finding that this reduces the concentration of three branched chain amino acids (valine, isoleucine, and leucine) that are precursors to two neurotransmitters, the mice were given drinking water that was untreated or contained the three amino acids.

The researchers found that the dietary amino acids restored normal amino acid levels in the hippocampus, restored cognitive performance as determined by a behavioral test, and restored a normal balance of neural activity as determined by electrophysiological experiments in slices of hippocampus. Treating hippocampal slices from injured animals with the amino acids also restored normal neural activity.

"These results suggest that dietary branched chain amino acid intervention could promote cognitive improvement by restoring hippocampal function after a traumatic brain injury," Cole and colleagues conclude.

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