Summer 2018 – Dr Joseph Maroon, as a neurosurgeon, sports and nutritional expert, has been asked countless times, “How can I keep my mind functioning”. What most people mean by this is, how can they avoid brain deterioration with aging and avoid dreaded diseases like Alzheimer’s. This is not an easy question to answer but we now know more about the mechanisms how a healthy lifestyle can actually change the size and pathways to improve brain function.
In his recent article in 55 Plus Magazine, Summer 2018, entitled Rewiring the Brain, Dr Maroon discusses the recently discovered brain structures call the connectome.
Read here a brief review about the connectome and how we have the power to actually change brain structure and function to improve our brain at any age. You can also read the 55 Plus Magazine article – HERE
REWIRING THE BRAIN
Connectomics, Neuroepigenetics and Neuroplasticity
Joseph C. Maroon, MD
Human neurodevelopment and neuropathology are defined by the neural elements (neurons, synapses, fiber tracks and their interconnections) that form the comprehensive map or wiring diagram of the brain – the so-called connectome. Although our genome is fixed at birth, we know epigenetic mechanisms alter chromatin structure through methylation and histone modification and dynamically regulate the pattern of gene and protein expression.
Neuroepigenetics refers to those environmental factors that specifically regulate gene expression in the neuron and subsequently the connectome. The genome is fixed and unchanging. The connectome, however – due to epigenetic factors – is malleable, constantly undergoing structural changes and is now recognized to demonstrate amazing neuroplasticity. Thus, an understanding of epigenetic factors responsible for neuroepigenetic modulation of brain function and structure is critical to understanding normal function and disease states affecting the brain. A burgeoning scientific literature has identified, for example, that prenatal environmental maternal stress and toxins (opioids, marijuana and other drugs) pathologically alter the developing connectome and may be contributory to subsequent neuro behavioral disorders including autism, ADHD, addiction, major depressive disorders and schizophrenia.
Diet and supplements, physical exercise, environmental toxins (alcohol, smoking, lead, mercury, etc.) and uncontrolled stress are all epigenetic factors that alter the connectome and health throughout life for better or for worse. A revolutionary scientific observation is we are not necessarily “stuck” with the brain we have. “Rewiring” damaged neural networks and enhancing neuroplasticity in normal brains is possible through specific epigenetic choices under our control. The brain is a neuroplasticity mechanism that enables neural activity and the connectome to be modified at any age. Rewiring of the brain connections, which can now be assessed with advanced neuromonitoring techniques, offers a mechanism through neuroepigenetics to escape the constraints imposed by existing brain circuitry.
Keywords: Joseph Maroon, Brain rewiring, Connectome, Healthy living