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July 29, 2010
Neuroscience Center, Rockville, Maryland


Rao Rapaka, Ph.D; CPSRB/ DBNBR

NIDA Specific Questions:

  • Do specific nutrients influence neuronal function?
  • What specific brain areas are affected by specific nutrients, how are they affected, and what are the molecular mechanisms underlying pathological or physiological changes that occur in those areas as a result of different nutrition states?
  • Can nutrient deficiencies be reversed by replacement therapy?
  • How do genetics influence the interactions between nutrients and metabolic and behavioral processes?

Scientific Highlights:

  • ~ 40 micronutrients, and their coenzymes and metals that are needed for proteins. The brain needs micronutrients.
  • With micronutrient deficiency proteins needed for survival have tightened bonding and proteins that are more long-term (i.e., prevent aging), "lose."
  • Choline important during pregnancy:
    • Brain (hippocampal) development
    • Later memory function-
    • Lower histone methylation
    • Reversing some aspects of FAS
  • Iron deficiency during development affects the DA system
    • decreased D2
    • TH is iron dependent enzyme to get l-dopa
  • Zinc deficiency associated with higher glucocorticoids
  • Omega 3 associated with improved mood, cognitive development, neuro-plasticity, synaptogenesis
  • DHA associated with neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1) molecule

Potential Areas of Research for NIDA:

  • Effects of dietary deficiencies on neuroplasticity; substance abuse
  • Balance and interaction among multiple nutrients, as opposed to study of individual nutrients
  • The need for investigating multiple targets in order to influence prevention and treatment of chronic disease states
  • Nutritional effects on the post-developing brain; developing methods to study
  • Gender/sex differences relative to the effects from nutrition and diet; effects of sex hormones on nutrient metabolism
  • The effects of nutrition/nutrients on relapse in a rehabilitation model, in addition to prevention and maintenance of addiction
  • Relationship between nutrition and neuroAIDs in drug abuse with respect to early cell death and early cognitive decline