Episode 114: Lilianne Mujica-Parodi Talks About How Diet And Ketones Affect Brain Aging | STEM-Talk

Key Takeaways

  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can detect abnormalities in the brain that cannot be detected with other imaging techniques
  • Early behavioral changes (such as nutrition and exercise) allow you to improve your risk profile for cancer, heart disease, and dementia
  • Two key factors linked to age-based cognitive impairment: insulin resistance and glucose hypometabolism
  • Brain networks start to deteriorate in the late 40s
  • In just one week, fMRI data revealed profound changes of how the brain responds to the ketogenic diet versus Standard American Diet (SAD)
  • Administered ketones provide increased efficiency in communication between brain networks
  • Individuals who have difficulty following ketogenic diet can benefit from exogenous ketones

Introduction

Dr. Lilianne Mujica-Parodi is Director of the Laboratory for Computational Neurodiagnostics at Stony Brook University. Dr. Mujica-Parodi’s research focuses on the application of neuroimaging (e.g., fMRI) for neurological and psychiatric disorders.

In this episode of STEM-Talk, Dawn and special co-host Ken Ford sit down with Dr. Lilianne Mujica-Parodi to discuss neurobiological changes associated with aging and the impact of lifestyle approaches and diet to preventing and possibly reversing cognitive decline with age.  

Host: Dawn Kernagis (@DawnKernagis)

Shortcomings of Neuroimaging Tools

  • It was believed that neuroimaging tools (e.g., MRI) had the potential to benefit neurology the same way the echocardiogram changed the course of cardiology
  • Neuroimaging is broadly distinguished as either anatomical or functional
  • Anatomical modalities ask what a system looks like and geographic features
  • Functional modalities focus on how the system responds to a stimulus
  • Neuroimaging was originally developed as an outgrowth of neurology and lesion studies
  • Lesions and tumors are examples of injuries but most psychology and psychiatry is based on disease  
  • The physics of neuroimaging wasn’t originally very good and didn’t allow for a systems approach
  • There isn’t always a part of the brain that’s damaged, instead, communication and regulatory processes are not functioning properly
  • Neuroimaging is great for mapping but not necessarily showing changes present in disease  

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) Technology and Its Potential Clinical Uses

  • fMRI can detect abnormalities in the brain that cannot be detected with other imaging techniques
  • Uses: evaluate small changes in blood flow associated with brain activity, evaluate the brain’s functional anatomy, study effects of stroke, and guide treatment
  • fMRI allows researchers and clinicians to introduce something in the scanner (such as a game or puzzle) and see how the brain responds in a natural state

Aging and The Brain

  • There are behavioral changes you can address early on to improve the risk profile for cancer, heart disease, and dementia
  • Two key factors linked to age-based cognitive impairment: insulin resistance and glucose hypometabolism
  • The deterioration of the brain is accelerated by insulin resistance
  • Hypometabolism: over time the brain loses the ability to effectively metabolize glucose
  • As people become older, the brain begins to atrophy
  • Networks start to destabilize in the late 40s

Effect of Keto Diet on The Brain

  • Keto diet has been shown to modulate disease and autoimmune system
  • fMRI data revealed profound changes in how the brain responds to the ketogenic diet versus Standard American Diet (SAD) – even at one week
  • The brain is a greedy consumer of fuel so it doesn’t take much deprivation to observe changes
  • Ketones improve cognitive performance and brain function, even in a deprivation state
  • Communication between brain regions became more stable compared to SAD
  • The signature for brain aging was reversed in individuals on a ketogenic diet
  • For individuals given glucose without ketones, networks re-stabilized even if they were hyperglycemic
  • Ketones appear to override the impact of glucose
  • Benefits appear to be more largely attributed to the addition of ketones than removal of glucose
  • Individuals who have difficulty following a ketogenic diet can benefit from exogenous ketones
  • Ketones provide greater energy to cells than glucose, even when calorically matched
  • Ketones are not just correcting for a lack of energy
  • Administered ketones provide increased efficiency in communication between networks
  • Ketosis happening in the blood and the brain are not identical processes
  • People enter ketosis in the brain before they go into ketosis in the rest of the body
  • Research Paper: Diet Modulates Brain Network Stability, A Biomarker For Brain Aging, In Young Adults by Lilianne R. Mujica-Parodi et. al.
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Notes By Maryann

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