By now many people are familiar with the benefits of the mineral magnesium. What is not so widely known is that there are many forms of magnesium. Some of these forms have a certain affinity for body systems or areas. For example, magnesium malate has a particular affinity for muscles and is often used to assuage the pain of fibromyalgia. Magnesium glycinate, a superior form due to its bond to an amino acid making it well-absorbed, may be a good choice for sleep. The amino acid glycine to which it is bound is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and thus may relieve a racing mind and "mental chatter" which often make sleep elusive. Regardless of how well some of these forms are absorbed in the body, none of them are able to cross the blood-brain barrier (bbb) to any great extent and exert their beneficial effects upon the brain. The afore-mentioned magnesium glycinate's glycine content may reach the brain but unfortunately the mineral may not.
Now, however, there is a new, extremely well-researched form of this mineral which has the ability to cross the bbb and exert some truly amazing effects. Researchers at MIT in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Science discovered that the Vitamin C metabolite magnesium L-threonate (MgT) is highly bioavailable and increases brain levels of the mineral like no other. The resulting effects range from increases in cognition, memory, and learning, to improvements in sleep and anxiety and even PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder).
The term "learning" means the process by which the brain is able to store new information by forming new connections between neurons in what are called networks. This process is an example of "neuroplasticity" and depends upon the formation of these connections as well as the numbers made. Synapses are the connections that allow one nerve cell to communicate with the next. It is theorized that loss of synapses is a main factor in age-dependent memory decline. The formation of synapses is partly dependent upon magnesium, which activates nerve channels that are involved in synaptic plasticity. Ultimately, the result is the increase in physiological processes of learning and memory. Since MgT has the unique ability to cross the bbb, it is able to influence factors involved in these processes. Scientists at MIT found that MgT is able to penetrate into the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, two areas of the brain which are known to shrink with age. In a series of experiments, these scientists administered MgT to mice and rats for a period and found that there was a 50% increase in the number of synapses. It was also shown that MgT enhances learning and both short- and long-term memory in young and aging rats.
As previously mentioned MgT penetrates the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain involved in cognition and memory. In addition to these areas and the beneficial effects induced there, MgT reaches the amygdala. Part of the limbic system, the oldest and most primal part of the brain, the amygdala is involved in the processing of emotions such as fear and anger. Included in fear is the conditioning of this emotion, an associative learning process by which we learn through repeated experiences to fear something. An example of this is PTSD. In this anxiety disorder this reaction is enhanced so that the fear memory continues even when one is no longer in danger, affecting cognitive ability on a daily basis. MgT reaching the amygdala is able to "extinguish" fear associated with painful memories. According to the MIT researchers, MgT is able to affect inhibition of fear memory. Through enhanced cognitive ability, fear responses such as PTSD-behaviors are controlled. The MIT team says that magnesium threonate is a potential supplement to cognitive therapy and a treatment for phobias, PTSD, and other anxiety-related disorders.
One very interesting side effect has been reported by nearly everyone giving testimonials about their use of magnesium threonate, including this author. Greatly improved sleep quality seems to be associated with use of this form of the mineral. As the relaxing effects of magnesium are well-known, it stands to reason that a form reaching the brain would induce its relaxing effects there and improve sleep as well as anxiety.
Evergreen stocks MgT in our brain section as well as with our other magnesium supplements.
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