Do bones play a role in memory?

The human skeleton and our bones are often times considered mere spacers and the stuff fascia connects to as a way to leverage force and motion. But it turns out bones may play a significant role in not only our memory and mood but may assist us in preventing anxiety and depression.

Sounds crazy right? How on earth could our bones help us with what seems the brain’s job?

Over the past two decades, French geneticist and physician Gerard Karsenty has been studying the protein osteocalcin, which is found in high concentrations in the skeleton. Osteocalcin, also known as bone gamma carboxyglutamic acid and contains protein (BGLAP), is a non-collagenous protein found in bone and dentin. It acts as a hormone in the body and helps the pancreas release insulin, while also directing fat cells to release another hormone called adiponectin, which increases sensitivity to insulin. Osteocalcin is produced by osteoblasts and has been used for decades as a marker for the bone formation process.

Although Karsenty’s research is done on mice, we know mouse genetics are similar to that of humans and are used to research and study many things instead of working on humans directly.

Well, it turns out as the brain helps regulate bone mass through signals sent from our bones, with the osteocalcin produced helping modulate this regulation and other functions of the brain. This hormone that can cross the blood-brain barrier and binds to neurons in different regions of our brain, binds to neurons and enhances the synthesis of key neurotransmitters and inhibits GABA synthesis (Gamma-amino butyric acid is an amino acid in the body that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits nerve transmission).

The bones really are crucial for so many functions

In doing so, it prevents anxiety and depression and helps with memory and learning. Karsenty showed in the lab that if the bones in mice were absent of osteocalcin that they would show signs of depression, have trouble breeding, and alter mice’s fat storage processes in the liver, muscles, pancreas and brain. His research also shows that bones play a crucial role in the reproductive organs of men showing that male mice that didn’t produce osteocalcin also had low levels of testosterone

Osteocalcin is a messenger protein sent by the bone to the brain to regulate many crucial processes in the body. It seems bones are far more than spacers for our structural support and a storage unit for calcium and phosphate. It’s as if the bones talk to the brain through this messenger protein. Eric Kandel speculates that bones may in fact be a part of the endocrine system and even play a role in regulating blood sugar. So perhaps if you lack this protein you won’t produce enough insulin and could play a role in diabetes too.

What implications could all of this information impact?

We know as we age bone density declines, ERD affects over 50% of men, and diabetes is an ever growing epidemic in the USA. We also know dementia and memory loss seem to be more common as well. Could osteocalcin be a marker for these issues? Perhaps exercise does more than create endorphins but perhaps exercise’s best help is with maintaining bone density. Granted osteocalcin isn’t the only hormone or protein that plays a role in regulating insulin, fertility, and brain function but it does seem to be a very relevant element in many brain functions and neurotransmission.

Of course fascia plays a role in all of this

What I find compelling about all of this information is the role fascia plays in supporting our bones, transporting nutrient and fluids throughout our body, and helping defend our body from microorganisms. As the bones and fascia are inter-connected as there is no separation from bone to fascia the network of these connective tissues are also thought to be a part of the endocrine system. No system acts in isolation—that we know. Although anatomy likes to cut things up and make systems seem separate and unique, there are many proteins like cytokins that also play a role in both our immune system and our nervous system. So many hormones influence both fascia and bones and the brain and body connection are vast. It’s once again validation that the brain doesn’t just talk to the body, the body helps regulate the brain’s functions and converses with the brain.

Once again, the concept that the body is an amazing system comprised of multisystem connections is ever present here with this research. Any modality, like MELT and methods that help with stability and performance, will continue to help people support these amazing elements of our body to function efficiently. Great research and information are arising beyond the traditional confines of anatomy. Keep your eyes open for more information like this!

References:

Karsenty G, Oury F (Jan 2014). “Regulation of male fertility by the bone-derived hormone osteocalcin”. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology. 382 (1): 521–6. doi:10.1016/j.mce.2013.10.008. PMC 3850748. PMID 24145129.

http://www.cell.com/abstract/S0092-8674(13)01073-8

http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/do-our-bones-influence-our-minds

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