Immune cells destroy healthy brain connections, diminish cognitive function in obese mice

September 10, 2018, Society for Neuroscience
Credit: Cope at al., JNeurosci (2018)

Obesity leads to cognitive impairment by activating microglial cells, which consume otherwise functional synapses in the hippocampus, according to a study of male mice published in JNeurosci. The research suggests that microglia may be a potential therapeutic target for one of the lesser known effects of this global health epidemic on the brain.

Nearly two billion adults worldwide are overweight, more than 600 million of whom are obese. In addition to increasing risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, obesity is also a known risk factor for cognitive disorders including Alzheimer's disease. The cellular mechanisms that contribute to in obesity, however, are not well understood.

Elise Cope and colleagues replicated previous research by demonstrating diet-induced obesity in mice impairs performance on cognitive tasks dependent on the hippocampus and results in loss of dendritic spines—the neuronal protrusions that receive signals from other cells—and activates microglia. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches to block microglial activity, the researchers established microglia are causally linked to obesity-induced dendritic spine loss and cognitive decline. The results suggest obesity may drive microglia into a synapse-eating frenzy that contributes to the cognitive deficits observed in this condition.

Explore further: Hypertension drugs could prevent memory loss in lupus patients, study suggests

More information: Elise C. Cope et al, Microglia play an active role in obesity-associated cognitive decline, The Journal of Neuroscience (2018). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0789-18.2018

Related Stories

Hypertension drugs could prevent memory loss in lupus patients, study suggests

September 5, 2018
Researchers from The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have discovered that the activation of brain cells called microglia likely contributes to the memory loss and other cognitive impairments suffered by many patients ...

Caloric restriction in combination with low-fat diet helps protect aging mouse brains

March 12, 2018
A low-fat diet in combination with limited caloric consumption prevents activation of the brain's immune cells—called microglia—in aging mice, shows research published today in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience. The ...

Obesity + aging linked to Alzheimer's markers in the brain

June 28, 2018
A new study suggests that when a high-fat, high-sugar diet that leads to obesity is paired with normal aging, it may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease. In addition, researchers discovered that certain areas ...

Overactive scavenger cells may cause neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's

June 30, 2017
For the first time, researchers from the University of Zurich demonstrate a surprising effect of microglia, the scavenger cells of the brain: If these cells lack the TDP-43 protein, they not only remove Alzheimer's plaques, ...

Is a pear—or apple-shape physique best for our brains?

January 29, 2018
With the new year still ringing, many of us have fat on our minds, but Dr. Alexis M. Stranahan is more interested in what fat does to our minds.

High-fat diet prompts immune cells to start eating connections between neurons

November 23, 2015
When a high-fat diet causes us to become obese, it also appears to prompt normally bustling immune cells in our brain to become sedentary and start consuming the connections between our neurons, scientists say.

Recommended for you

How returning to a prior context briefly heightens memory recall

December 11, 2018
Whether it's the pleasant experience of returning to one's childhood home over the holidays or the unease of revisiting a site that proved unpleasant, we often find that when we return to a context where an episode first ...

Neurons in the brain work as a team to guide movement of arms, hands

December 11, 2018
The apparent simplicity of picking up a cup of coffee or turning a doorknob belies the complex sequence of calculations and processes that the brain must undergo to identify the location of an item in space, move the arm ...

The importins of anxiety

December 11, 2018
According to some estimates, up to one in three people around the world may experience severe anxiety in their lifetime. In a study described today in Cell Reports, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have revealed ...

The richer the reward, the faster you'll likely move to reach it, study shows

December 11, 2018
If you are wondering how long you personally are willing to stand in line to buy that hot new holiday gift, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine say the answer may be found in the biological rules governing how animals typically ...

Using neurofeedback to prevent PTSD in soldiers

December 11, 2018
A team of researchers from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. has found that using neurofeedback could prevent soldiers from experiencing PTSD after engaging in emotionally difficult situations. In their paper published in the ...

Study: Age, race differences determine risk of stroke in women and men

December 11, 2018
A new study found that, between the ages of 45 and 74 years, white women were less likely to have a stroke than white men, but at age 75 and older, there was no difference in stroke risk between white women and men. In contrast, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.