It’s kind of sad to me how slowly science can move from the laboratory to the classroom (perhaps less critically important than moving from the lab to the bedside, but still pretty critical). I’d like to think with the popularity of the internet and the spread of science communication direct to your screens (hello!), we’ll be moving the latest science to the classroom, but when I was but a sprog, things were different. For example, I was raised in high school and college to think that we were born with all the neurons we would ever have. It turns out, all that time, science knew full well that wasn’t the case.
And here’s another. In college, heck, in grad school, I learned that neurons only eat glucose. Only glucose. Disdain all other molecules. But it turns out, that’s not the case either, and we’ve known for more than a decade! Neurons aren’t such picky eaters after all, they’ll eat glycogen, the secondary form of energy storage which we usually think of as being used by muscle.
But it gets wilder than that. A reader pointed me to a recent column from Tara Parker Pope, showing that not only does the brain use glycogen as a source of energy during exercise, but that it can “train” to store more glycogen when the body receives exercise training! Being a running addict as I am (and taking a grudging day off right now for the sake of my knees), I wanted to take a look.
And the best part? Rats on treadmills.
(I should note they seem less than enthusiastic. Usually rats really enjoy running in things like wheels. Can’t say as I blame them though, I hate treadmills too.)
Matsui et al. “Brain glycogen decreases during prolonged exercise” Journal of Physiology, 2011.
Matsui et al. “Brain glycogen supercompensation following exhaustive exercise”Journal of Physiology, 2012.