January 16, 2013

Homocysteine and Memory Loss: Mechanisms


We've seen how homocysteine is closely linked to memory loss, brain shrinkage and dementia.  But why does this happen? What 'underpins' the link between homocysteine and cognition?

Scientists think there are probably several reasons why high homocysteine harms your brain ( 2006 Aug;9(4):361-80).

'Falling Leaves':

Homocysteine is linked to a particular way in which cells in your body die. This is called 'apoptosis'.

It's a Greek word.  It means 'falling off' - as in dying leaves falling from an autumnal tree.

In a later Blog we will look at how homocysteine causes apoptosis in nerve cells.

Methylation Matters:

A high homocysteine also shows that your body is having problems with 'methylation'.  Methylation is sometimes called 'single-carbon metabolism'.

We will take a closer look at methylation - and what happens in your brain when it goes wrong - in our next Blog update.


Yet another way high homocysteine damages nerve cells is by 'excitotoxicity.'

Homocysteine interacts with receptors on nerve cells. It triggers harmful cascades, killing nerve cells. 

Vascular damage - White matter:

A high homocysteine also affects your brain through 'mini-strokes;' and from damage to blood vessel walls.

As we've already seen, homocysteine is also linked with damage to the white matter 'wiring' in your brain.

High Homocysteine? - It's Simply Bad For Your Brain:

So, there are several mechanisms linking homocysteine and memory loss.

We will look at all of these in detail in later Blogs.

Put simply though, high homocysteine is bad for your brain!


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