By Dr. Alan Miller, ND, Thorne Executive Director, Medical Education
How does the brain develop new memories? How does the brain repair itself after trauma? And what regulates the brain's process of neuroplasticity?
One online definition describes neuroplasticity as, "the brain's natural ability to form new connections to compensate for injury or for changes in one's environment."
It wasn't long ago that scientist's believed that in adulthood, the brain was fairly static and if the brain was damaged, it couldn't regenerate or repair itself. Now we know differently—the brain is constantly adapting, adjusting, and repairing itself throughout life.
Consuming a brain-healthy diet and benefiting from positive stimuli can help the brain dynamically adapt, repair, and respond to its environment. At the forefront of having robust neuroplasticity are the mitochondria, the energy-producing powerhouses in our cells.
Mitochondria produce ATP—the chemical fuel that runs our cells— and cells that have a higher level of metabolic activity, particularly brain cells, need to effectively produce ATP. Because nerve cells can contain hundreds of mitochondria per cell, it's important that the mitochondria function properly.
Did you know that the number of mitochondria in our cells fluctuates? It's true; certain chemicals produced in our cells can cause the cell to create more mitochondria when the cell needs more energy. This process is called mitochondrial biogenesis, a process that is vitally important to having and maintaining a healthy nervous system. NAD+ is a coenzyme that is found in all living cells. NAD+ is essential to proper metabolic function because of its beneficial effect on mitochondrial function.
NAD+ is derived from proteins in the diet that contain the amino acid L-tryptophan and from foods that contain vitamin B3 (niacin). NAD+ production in the body can also be increased by taking a nutritional supplement that contains nicotinamide riboside, like Thorne Research's NiaCel®.*
In particular, the mitochondria in nerve cells need NAD+ to fully metabolize food into cellular fuel. It's an awesome cycle in which the more NAD+ available to a cell, the more efficiently the mitochondria in that cell can create ATP.
It's important to know that as a person ages, their cellular levels of NAD+ decline. Therefore, supplementing with nicotinamide riboside is nutritionally the most efficient way to increase NAD+ in our cells, thus making our mitochondria more efficient.* Increasing NAD+ levels also stimulates the activity of healthyaging proteins like the sirtuins, which further improves cellular energetics because they drive the creation of more mitochondria in the cell.*
Caloric restriction, exercise, and supplementation with botanical components like curcumin and resveratrol can also drive sirtuin activity, but you need NAD+ for the sirtuins to work.* When that can be achieved, the result is more mitochondria doing more efficient work. And in the brain, this will equate to more energetic and efficient cells, as well as a brain that is more able to respond to stimuli, adapt to changes in the environment, and repair itself as needed—the definition of neuroplasticity.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.