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COVID 19 AND BRAIN GRAY MATTER

The olfactory bulb has been thought to be the entry point of SARS-CoV-2 into the central nervous system, and the magnitude of effect at these locations may support this hypothesis.

Many of the results observed here are strikingly similar to those associated with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. This has raised concerns that the long-term consequences of COVID-19 may include these disorders.

In a new study scientists demonstrated that cognitive impairment in patients with long-COVID can be significantly improved in three to four days using alternating non-invasive brain stimulation using microcurrents (NIBS).

The investigators propose that hypometabolic neurons are the probable biological cause of the neurological deficits manifested as long-COVID symptoms, and that NIBS reactivates these "silent" neurons by reoxygenation, which is the presumed basis of recovery.

Vascular problems throughout the retina and the brain are the probable cause of long-COVID-19 symptoms. Because patients report vision loss, these investigators hypothesized that NIBS treatment could help induce cognitive recovery.

20-30% of COVID-19 patients develop significant cognitive deficits long after the early symptoms of infection have subsided, and clinicians have had little to offer. But the risk is much higher in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with about 60% experiencing cognitive decline within four months. They suffer often long-lasting impairment of speech production, learning, memory, and executive functions. And they can suffer abnormalities in mood such as depression, anhedonia, (inability to feel pleasure). and lower stress resilience.

This is the first demonstration that cognitive impairment can be improved in such a brief period of time. We believe that the treatment could benefit patients with long-COVID worldwide to improve cognitive impairment.

Covid 19 infection may indirectly damage the identified brain regions due to fever or lack of oxygen.

Having excess weight, may have reduced the availability of oxygen to patients’ brains and had already caused the observed alterations in gray matter. Grey matter is where your brain neurons are located. Grey matter is found in the outer areas of your brain.

SARS-CoV-2 can infect astrocytes, (are characteristic star-shaped glial cells in the brain and spinal cord. They perform many functions, including biochemical control of endothelial cells that form the blood–brain barrier), a type of cell that’s abundant in the brain and has many functions. “Astrocytes do quite a lot that supports normal brain function, including providing nutrients to neurons to keep them working.

SARS-CoV-2 preferentially infects astrocytes over other brain cells. The researchers exposed brain organoids — miniature brain-like structures grown from stem cells in the lab — to the virus. SARS-CoV-2 almost exclusively infected astrocytes over all other cells present.

Infected astrocytes could explain some of the neurological symptoms associated with COVID-19, especially fatigue, depression and ‘brain fog’, which includes confusion and forgetfulness.

Evidence has also accumulated that SARS-CoV-2 can affect the brain by reducing blood flow to it — impairing neurons’ function and ultimately killing them.

Pericytes are cells found on small blood vessels called capillaries throughout the body — including in the brain. A February preprint reported that SARS-CoV-2 could infect pericyte-like cells in brain organoids.

Study shows the parts of the brain that were impacted were the same as those that could be impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Smell has been something Alzheimer’s researchers have looked at as a possible marker for illness. What they found here in this study is that the areas that were impacted are areas that are connected in some ways in the brain to the olfactory cortex, the part of the brain that senses smell. The thought process is that perhaps they’re impacting similar areas that could be related to what we see in Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dementias, such as Alzheimer's, can impair the areas of the brain that enable the sense of smell and taste and the ability of the individual to process them. When this occurs, eating and drinking can become less pleasurable. This is often the cause of unhealthy weight loss and malnutrition.

These findings, together with our results, indicate that COVID-19 may not affect the brain directly. Instead, it may affect the frontal-temporal network in a secondary manner through fever or lack of oxygen (hypoxia).

Grey matter is neurons, the cell bodies, and very few axons. White matter is the opposite with mostly myelinated axons. You can’t grow new neurons; you were born with nearly all the neurons you will ever have. Only a small number are produced in specific sites like the Hippocampus.

So, does grey matter can only decrease? Not exactly. The cell bodies are only a part of grey matter. Increases in dendrite branching (the receiving end of neurons) can increase grey matter, without needing new neurons. Existing neurons making more connection would technically also result in more grey matter. More water in the area would also show up as an increase, but let’s assume researchers took this error into account.

The gray matter is where the synapses are. But the white matter carries that information back-and-forth across various parts of the brain. All of the brain works together and it depends on the white matter, and maybe even the glia.

Neurons do increase their numbers over time and in particular during the brain's various developmental stages, there’s no known mechanism (natural or artificial) to promote more neurons to be formed at a particular time and place. It is known, though, that under some circumstances the Hippocampus might grow larger over time, but this is determined by internal genetic and developmental markers, not by anything externally taken or done by an individual.

The best way is to eat nourishing food and exercise both your body and mind, as both cause coherent neural activity that in some cases helps the efficient “re-wiring” of pre-existing neurons, and in some limited cases, triggers the formation of a (small) number of extra neurons where needed.

Scientists have found out that daily meditation of 20 minute for some months increases grey matter of our brain. Grey matter refers to the number of cytons (Cyton is a large part of the fiber of a nerve, or neuron. It is concerned with the regulation of a neuron's maximum metabolism. In other words, the cyton is responsible for regulating a neuron's metabolism. Cyton projections are called dendrons, which separate further and are known as dendrites) and unmyelinated axons of neurons in your brain and spinal cord. Neurons don’t reproduce, so the amount of grey matter in your brain never increases. The amount of matter is not proportional to intellectual capabilities, but rather how well connected the different neurons are and that can be improved by challenging and exercising your brain regularly.

In the case of the brain the interventions depends on the severity of damage. The inner damage is taken care by the brain. What will require help is the recovery of an intact function lost at the injury site: speech, movement, balance etc. Unless the brain is taught and prompted, the full recovery is often rare and, for example, people with a major stroke will be speaking again, and walking again but will keep a dysfunction in the main area of cell death.

The decline of memory in older age can be slowed down as the hippocampus (important for memory) shows decreased decline in active older adults. This mechanism is believed to be mediated by the release of BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) during exercise. BDNF Acts as a protector from brain atrophy (brain atrophy, or cerebral atrophy is the loss of brain cells called neurons. Atrophy also destroys the connections that help the cells communicate. It can be a result of many different diseases that damage the brain, including stroke and Alzheimer’s disease), via neurogenesis (new cell growth) and formation of new brain connections.

Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a key molecule involved in plastic changes related to learning and memory. The expression of BDNF is highly regulated, and can lead to great variability in BDNF levels in healthy subjects. Changes in BDNF expression are associated with both normal and pathological aging and also psychiatric disease, in particular in structures important for memory processes such as the hippocampus and Para hippocampal areas. Some interventions like exercise or antidepressant administration enhance the expression of BDNF in normal and pathological conditions.

Are there any drugs to increase brain matter?

The most robust correlational evidence is applied to methylphenidate, amphetamine, nicotine and modafinil. They are called stimulants, which can be noticed in 30 mins after consumption via different mechanism of neuromediators interactions. Each of them has its special benefits and side effects, but need to avoid methylphenidate and amphetamine, because they have an influence on dopamine releasing of overly strong context. Modafinil increases cognition and working memory, in particular, so it will lead to more interconnected brain network, which is able to produce increased gray matter within the brain.

Beyond adolescence, the amount of gray matter plateaus and begins to decline. The gray matter (neurons, circuits, dendrites and axons) does not die or disappear with age, but rather we begin to lose the wealth and strength of connections between neurons.

During aging, the gray matter of the brain starts to shrink as the neurons shorten their dendritic reach and neuronal circuitry is less robust in size and activity. Some axonal shrinkage occurs as well. So, the strong neural connections that provide reliable circuits for clear thinking and learning in our youth, are gradually diminished as we use them less and less. Age is definitely a factor; one generally loses gray matter (and myelin) as one ages. Neurodegeneration can be slowed down by exercising the brain.

White matter is brain tissue that consists of the axons of nerve cells, as opposed to grey matter which is composed of the nerve cell bodies (called soma). Different kinds of nerve cells can have single or multiple axons, but to increase the amount of white matter the cells would need to produce additional axons beyond what they originally differentiated to have.

PROPER NUTRITION

Food feeds the brain and a lack of the right food & nutrition will lead to lower energy levels which in turn lowers brain activity and eventually mental disorders. Vitamins B12, B6 and folic acid is needed for cognitive development. DHA/EPA (omega 3 fatty acids) is required for normal brain health and a lack of can lead to depression. Vitamin C increases mental agility. Vitamin K increases cognitive functioning. Berries containing anthocyanins increase short term memory. Zinc plays an important role in spatial learning and memory.

The only way you can dramatically increase your brain's processing capability - a.k.a. your grey matter - is to use more of it on a daily basis.

Meditate More

Meditation has been practiced for centuries – and those who practice claim that it could turn the meanest of us into someone more peaceful. Indeed, new studies show that meditation has quantitatively measurable effects on the brain. A Harvard study for instance observed a huge difference in the brain of people before and after starting and 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program. MRI scans were performed 2 weeks prior and after the program and the changes in the brain were absolutely astonishing: there was an increase in gray-matter density in the hippocampus – an important structure related to learning and memory; they also observed a decrease in gray-matter in a stress-related structure known as the amygdala (region of the brain primarily associated with emotional processes). There are of course dynamical changes as well with reports of increased alpha wave activity and such.

Yoga combines breathing, holding postures and meditation, a trifecta that not only protects the integrity of your brain, but thickens layers of your cerebral cortex, too. Brain scans now reveal that yoga changes your brain chemistry in positive ways. It helps build more robust levels of gray matter in brain areas involved with pain modulation.

Yoga’s neuroprotective properties not only spare the brain from gray matter loss, but they seem to build up gray matter volume in certain regions of the brain, too. This is important because losing gray matter can lead to memory impairment, emotional problems, poorer pain tolerance and decreased cognitive functioning.

The more years of yoga practice under someone’s belt was associated with positive changes in the left hemisphere, including increasing gray matter volumes in clusters located in the left insula, left frontal operculum, right middle temporal gyrus and left orbitofrontal cortex. These areas of the brain are involved in:

Perception

Motor control

Self-awareness

Cognitive functioning

Interpersonal experience

Inhibition

Impulse control

Social behavior

Memory processing

Emotion and rewarding decision making

If you haven’t been practicing for years, don’t worry, your brain is still changing. Those same researchers found that the number of hours of weekly practice correlated with gray matter volume in different areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, primary visual cortex, primary somatosensory cortex/superior parietal lobule and precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex.

These areas of the brain include functions related to:

Self-consciousness. Self-awareness. Limbic system (emotion regulation)

Exercise More

Exercise is good for your health – this is a known fact. It helps to lose weight, lower blood pressure and improves your health in general. But maybe its most important effect is on the brain. How? Well, firstly exercise has the ability to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels in the brain. More blood vessels means more oxygen and nutrients in the brain. A well-fed brain is a happy brain. Here again, neuroimaging studies have shown structural changes in the brain’s gray-matter – with an increase of it in brain structures associated with memory, learning, motor function and reward – like the hippocampus! Exercise was also shown to counter the shrinkage observed in the hippocampus of older people – which means that exercise literally makes your brain look younger for longer! And once again, exercise seems to affect the dynamics as well with again – increase in alpha activity.

Sleep More

Sleep deprived people are more prone to stress, have slower reflexes, impaired memory and concentration. And there is a correlation between lack of sleep and depression. Recent studies have been trying to see what happens in our brain during sleep that is so important. The brain doesn’t shut down during sleep, but instead seems to be renewing itself and “cleaning the house”. Electrophysiological studies have shown that neuronal activity patterns found during a learning task while awake were repeated in the brain during sleep suggesting that sleeping helps to consolidate memories. There is also active neuronal communication between hippocampus and neocortex during sleep. Since the neocortex is responsible for long term memory, while hippocampus is responsible for short term memory, sleep might be important to transfer our memories to a safe place to be remembered later. During sleep, neurons also get “cleaned” and dispose the by-products of metabolism that accumulates during their activity. While we are sleeping, without the task of making sense of the constant barrage of sensory stimulus, our brain is in a frenzy trying to consolidate memories, doing a bit of spring cleaning, and even regenerating. Sleep has also been shown to revert connectivity changes created by learning over the course of the day and sleep deprivation changes your brains connectivity patterns pretty substantially – for the worse. EEG studies show increased slow wave activity during wakefulness in sleep deprived folks which is not awesome.



Learn More Stuff, Practice Stuff

Learning is probably the most significant enabler of brain plasticity (and vice versa). While we are learning new neuronal pathways are being created in our brain, so that we can indeed learn and of course repetition helps nail it all down. College education has been shown to have all sorts of structural and functional benefits such as increased thickness of cortical grey matter that protects against cognitive aging (read about that here). Learning different skills can also alter things pretty dramatically. An expert musician, for example, will have more gray matter in brain regions responsible for playing the instrument. Taxi drivers in London have a larger hippocampus, because it is responsible for acquiring and using complex spatial information in order to navigate efficiently. So, as you learn anything your brain will modify itself to become better at it!

do mental arithmetic; - let your fingers do your walking in dictionary or reference search; - trust your instincts on road navigation; - have face-to-face communication with folks; - write handwritten notes; - carry a memory jot-pad, so as to leave your mind uncluttered; - go for a walk in the neighborhood, and just soak in all the multi-sensory impressions; Body movements also enhance your brain's cross lateral functions.

Act like a child, but don't be childish. More precisely, adopt a child's mindset of a beginner. When looking at a problem or challenge or issue at hand, explore beyond the positives and the negatives, like what's interesting here. Break patterned routines, so as to be able to see something different or think something different or do something different; more precisely, to see the world afresh and anew. Don't be afraid to play, explore and experiment with unorthodox methods to imagine more possibilities.

Video games improve your brain? yeah, but not just video games, any repetitive, skill-based tasks (sports, painting, and driving) will do. These activities will make new connections as you practice, leading not only to better connectivity but also increases in grey matter.

Did you know you can actually increase your IQ by increasing your grey matter? What is grey matter you ask? To start, grey matter contains a vast majority of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies. Grey matter is found in the hippocampus and is involved in sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control. Higher presence of grey matter has been associated with increased learning capabilities and improved memory, along with an increased sense of self awareness.

Watch out for depression. Untreated depression has been linked to cognitive decline. Get help if you are struggling with depression, stress, or anxiety. Don’t be a loner. Studies show that people who have more healthy and active relationships have better brain health.




Use your imagination

This may seem like an odd one, but using your imagination can send off the neuron firing squad, and causes the grey matter to sit up and take notice. Upon reaching age 30, our brains start to shrink – and if you think about it, so does our imagination. Try exercising your imagination to promote the maintenance and growth of grey brain matter through painting, writing, reading fiction, or any other creative hobby you might have.

Medical studies suggest that intermittent fasting not only increases energy, but also:

Makes us less insulin resistant, staving off fat and insulin related disease by reducing levels of circulating IGF-1 and increasing insulin sensitivity without lowering the resting metabolic Rate. May improve immunity, lower diabetes risk, and improve heart health. Increases production of brain neurotropic growth factor — a protein that promotes neuron growth and protection — making us more resilient to neurological stress and thus staving off neurodegenerative diseases.

Get rid of bad habits

Bad habits can cancel out any positive changes you are trying to make to your brain. Bad habits such as smoking cigarettes or drinking too much alcohol can wreak havoc on your grey brain matter. Forcing yourself to change a habit will help the brain to break down strong negative neural connections, thus allowing healthy new connections to take place. Destroying unhealthy brain connections is just as important as forming new ones. Science has proven that our brains can change even into old age, but we must make an effort.

Omega-3 Fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, are associated with increased grey matter volume in areas of the brain commonly linked to mood and behavior according to a University of Pittsburgh study. Be sure to include foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as wild caught Salmon. Also, consider mixing in an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement into your arsenal. Not all Omega-3 supplements are the same, so make sure you are taking a natural, high-quality one. We recommend Icelandic Omega-3 Fish Oil by BioSchwartz, which is non-GMO, pharmaceutical grade, and easily the best Omega-3 supplement on the market.

Switch to a Mediterranean style diet. People who eat lots of fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil have less cognitive decline and dementia. A diet for brain health also includes less animal fat and less salt.




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