New research points to a connection between food comas and long-term memories

Credit score: Jm Verastigue/public area

There could also be a connection between meals comas—resting after consuming—and the formation of long-term reminiscences, a crew of neuroscientists concludes primarily based on its examine on mind exercise in sea slugs.

The analysis seems the Nature Analysis journal Scientific Stories.

“The feeling of a ‘meals coma’ after a hearty meal is well-known to anybody who has ever skilled a Thanksgiving dinner,” says Thomas Carew, a professor in New York College’s Middle for Neural Science and the paper’s senior writer. “The truth is, most animals are inclined to decelerate and relaxation after a big consumption of energy, suggesting that there’s a organic operate to this response.

“Our new examine proposes that such ‘rest-and-digest’ responses to feeding could have been formed by evolution to advertise the formation of long-term reminiscences.”

The crew, which included Nikolay Kukushkin, a postdoctoral fellow within the Carew lab, and Sidney Williams, an NYU undergraduate in World Liberal Research on the time of the analysis, studied Aplysia californica, the California sea slug. Aplysia is a mannequin organism that’s highly effective for this sort of analysis as a result of its neurons are 10 to 50 instances bigger than these of upper organisms, akin to vertebrates, and it possesses a comparatively small community of neurons—traits that readily enable for the examination of linkages between neurological and different exercise.

Of their evaluation, the scientists additionally thought of current scholarship on meals consumption and the mind.

“In people, meals consumption promotes the discharge of the hormone insulin, which prompts the cells of the physique to soak up vitamins from the bloodstream and switch them into fats for long-term storage,” explains Kukushkin. “Nonetheless, insulin is assumed to have little impact on the mind. Against this, a associated hormone, insulin-like progress issue II, has been proven to be important for correct mind operate, together with long-term reminiscence formation. Nonetheless, its launch doesn’t rely upon calorie consumption.

“Due to this fact, insulin-like molecules in people are segregated into at the very least two distinct practical modules. A metabolic module, represented by insulin, controls feeding and vitality steadiness, whereas a neurotropic module, centered on insulin-like progress issue II, controls reminiscence formation.”

In finding out Aplysia, the scientists discovered that on this species the 2 distinct modules of insulin-like molecules are, in distinction to people, unified right into a single system that performs each metabolic and neurotropic capabilities. Furthermore, they found {that a} single insulin-like molecule produced within the Aplysia nervous system concurrently strengthens the contacts between neurons, a mechanism thought to underlie long-term reminiscence, and promotes the absorption of vitamins into the mollusk’s tissues.

The analysis additionally concerned monitoring the slugs’ behavioral response to meals consumption—on this case, their common weight loss program of seaweed.

Right here, when animals had been allowed to eat their fill, their motion exercise was decreased, and this impact was blocked by stopping insulin-like receptors from working.

“Thus, Aplysia’s ‘meals coma’ is managed by their insulin-like system, which acts by redistributing the animal’s vitality away from energetic conduct and in the direction of storage of each vitamins and reminiscence,” observes Carew. “These outcomes will assist perceive the mechanisms by which insulin and related molecules elicit each their diet-related and memory-enhancing properties in people and different animals.”

The researchers observe that Aplysia and people share the overall options of the hormone that kinds their insulin programs, which developed in each species to regulate diet, reminiscence, and conduct. Nonetheless, in Aplysia, these capabilities have remained unified, whereas within the human lineage they turned partially unbiased.

“It stays to be established whether or not the human ‘meals coma’ is a vestige of our evolutionary previous, or nonetheless an necessary a part of reminiscence formation,” Kukushkin acknowledges.

“Nonetheless, it has been extensively established that in an array of animals, together with people, sleep is well-known to be required for correct storage of long-term reminiscences acquired throughout wakefulness.”

“Maybe the drowsiness skilled after a meal is an identical strategy to protect a reminiscence about that meal, in order to come back again to it sooner or later,” posits Carew. “Whether or not seaweed or Thanksgiving turkey, an excellent dinner is at all times price revisiting.”


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