City U research team discovers cognition tool

Local | Charlotte Luo 7 Sep 2018

A City University of Hong Kong research team has discovered that a brain signaling molecule can improve a person's decision-making skills.

Li Ying of the university's Department of Biomedical Science said the remarkable discovery paves the way for effectively mitigating cognitive disorders caused by chronic pain.

L-lactate, an important energy substrate, is utilized by neurons for information flow and synchrony in the neural circuitry of the brain.

Chronic pain could increase the level of anxiety, depression, and cognitive disorders, such as impaired decision-making.

The research team found that an insufficient release of L-lactate may be one of the factors in cognitive deficits in chronic visceral pain.

Team members injected L-lactate into the anterior cingulate cortex in rats' brains to uncover the role that L-lactate plays in the brain.

They discovered that it improved the decision-making performance of rats with chronic visceral pain.

The chance of making a good decision among normal rats surged by 48 percent.

"The findings reveal that L-lactate should no longer be simply considered as an energy substrate for neurons, but rather an important signaling molecule that can regulate neuroplasticity and synchrony in the neural circuitry of the brain," Li said.

"In addition, using L-lactate infusion, optogenetic or chemical genetic technology to activate astrocytes in abnormal neural circuitry may help alleviate cognitive deficits caused by chronic pain."

The findings were published under the title "Astrocytic L-lactate Signaling Facilitates Amygdala-Anterior Cingulate Cortex Synchrony and Decision Making in Rats" in Cell Report, an international life sciences journal that covers entire areas of molecular and cell biology.

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