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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

NMDA Receptors

The latest word in psychology, biochemistry, and psychiatric neurology is NMDA receptor, a brain receptor for glutamate which functions as a gateway for consciousness. The NMDA receptor is a key site for learning, memory, and pain perception (Note 1). Pregnenolone sulfate (PS) affects the NMDA receptor. Increased PS levels in the hippocampus result in improved mental function in older animals. In addition, PS causes mice brains to produce more neurons. "PS has also been shown to increase LTP in the hippocampus, possibly providing a mechanism for its role as a cognitive enhancer" (Note 2)(citations omitted). LTP means long-term potentiation, or the long-lasting improvement in communication between two neurons (Note 3). The NMDA receptor has been said to confer on the brain the potential to "endow neurons with novel computational abilities" (Note 4). In short, agents that boost NMDA activity (such as PS) have an effect on cognition and consciousness, increasing thought processes, creativity and certain other brain functions.

References
  1. VanDongen, Antonius M. 2008. Biology of the NMDA Receptor (Frontiers in Neuroscience) CRC, p. 134.
  2. VanDongen 2008:302.
  3. Wikipedia definition of LTP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-term_potentiation.
  4. VanDongen 2008:303.

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