Research into what the nutritional needs are for a healthy brain have been helping people understand what to eat to help maintain a sharp mind. Berkeley Lab reported on Nov. 26, 2014 it has been established that copper plays an essential role in the health of the human brain. There has been a link observed between several neurological disorders including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Menkes’ and Wilson’s and improper copper oxidation.
There has also been a critical association found between copper and the enzymes which activate the brain’s neurotransmitters in response to stimuli. Recently researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have shown that proper copper levels are also vital to the health of the brain when it is at rest. Chris Chang, who is a faculty chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division who led this study, says with new molecular imaging techniques copper has been identified as a dynamic modulator of spontaneous activity of developing neural circuits.
Therefore copper is important for the baseline activity of neurons without active stimuli. Chang explains this is like when you are sleeping or daydreaming at which time copper helps circuits to rest and adapt. This research shows that copper can modulate neural activity which is essential for the normal development of synapses and circuits in the brain.
The brain consumes 20 percent of the oxygen taken in through respiration even though it accounts for only two percent of total body mass. Due to this high demand for oxygen and oxidative metabolism the brain harbors the body’s highest levels of copper, as well as iron and zinc. Chang and his associates at UC Berkeley have developed a series of fluorescent probes which can be used for molecular imaging of copper in the brain.
Mismanagement of copper in the brain has been found to be associated with Wilson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders. Such mismanagement of copper in the brain can also contribute to misregulation of signaling in cell−to-cell communications. Chang says the results of this study hold therapeutic implications as to whether or not a patient needs copper supplements or copper chelators depending on how much copper is present and where in the brain the copper it is located.
This study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Copper has traditionally been seen as a static, tightly bound cofactor in enzymes. Emerging data have linked more-loosely bound pools of copper to cell signaling. Results of this study have established the requirement for copper in a core dynamic property of brain circuitry.
Medline Plus reports that good sources of copper include oysters and other shellfish, nuts, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and liver. Other good sources of copper are dark leafy greens, black pepper, dried fruits such as prunes, cocoa, and yeast. Copper is also available in supplements. Eating well and making certain that along with other vital nutrients you get a good supply of copper in your daily diet is good for the health of your brain.