Glial Cell Function Vital for Learning

By Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

September 25, 2009

Glial Cell Function Vital for Learning
A major breakthrough in our understanding of nerve cell function opens the door for strategies to improve learning. Central to the issue is the function of the glial cells1 within your brain (also called astrocytes). For the very first time bi-directional communication between glial cells and nerve transmitting cells has been identified, showing how glial cells regulate learning. This discovery is of extreme importance to everyone.

Getting information to flow along nerve cells is vital for making new connections, strengthening existing skills, and overall intelligence. The use of speed-like ADHD medication is to force such transmission to take place, regardless of what it is doing to the health of the phone poles and wires that are carrying the transmission. The new science readily predicts that such drugs are extremely harmful, due to their excitotoxic side effects on glial cell and brain structure, regardless of any learning problems they improve in the short term.

Scientists were extremely surprised to find that nerve transmitting cells send a message to glial cells asking for help, and these glial cells then directly increase the ability of nerve transmitting cells to transmit signals. In fact, glial cells are likely the overall managers of nerve transmission.

I have been reporting on the emerging science of glial cells for the past five years. They form 90% of the brain cells in your head. Until recently, scientist attributed all brain function to the nerve-transmitting neurons. This places a heavy emphasis on neurotransmitters like serotonin in terms of understanding how your brain works to regulate mood, memory, learning, etc.

The glial influence on nerve cells, especially in depression, has become better understood and is significant.

It is very important to understand that glial cells make inflammatory cytokines in your brain and when they are overheated then virtually all diseases within the nervous system take place, ranging from Alzheimer's to clinical depression.

Thus, it is an immense finding that glial cells are regulating learning. It opens an entire new approach to helping people with nerve issues of any kind, including autism spectrum disorders as well as optimizing intelligence for any person.

The basic approach to this is to make your glial cells happy. I will discuss this in depth in my upcoming class on ADHD (available as the September 30, 2009 podcast).

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