Myelin in your Brain and IQ

May 14, 2023

Myelin and IQ

The MRI scanner excites water molecules and uses that excitement to create its images. A very powerful magnet makes protons (a positive electrical charge) line up and then when the magnetic field is relaxed, the protons release their lining up with a smidgeon of released energy. The MRI scanner can read that. It is excellent at defining "soft tissue" in the body which has a lot of water in it.

The brain is floating in water but is mostly made of fat. Fat and water have quite different densities. The nerve cells of the brain are all connected to thousands of other nerve cells with some 4 quadrillion (estimated) connections called synapses. Each neuron cell is linked to some 3500-4000 other nerve cells with those synapses. The wires in between the cells and synapses are called axons. A naked axon conducts an electric impulse quite slowly. Eight weeks prior to birth, an infant human has very little myelin. All this can be proven by advances in MRI technology that can measure the quantity and quality of myelin. The human brain can't "afford" to be myelinated too much as that would make it "too large" for the exit canal. The brain has to wait for the last minute to be myelinated. Hence, babies are born with a huge myelin deficit and a big plasmalogen demand.

From the time to birth to age 3 months, the myelin doubles, and then doubles again in the next 6 months. There are many, many more wires laid down in the brain that are "needed" and the brain has a sorting process of discovering which axons are active, and conduct electricity and thereby need to be "hooked up" and connected. All that takes sorting out and pruning, wrapping, and wiring. A myelinated nerve that is sending signals conducts those signals at speeds in proportion to the density of myelin. Mothers paying attention see that maturation process as their infants learn to focus their vision and recognize their face. That happens early and is an important developmental event. Same with voice. Infants don't figure out their hands till later.

The axons in the brain are wrapped with progressively more layers of myelin. Like an onion, they mature, with efficient axons having many, many layers of myelin wrapped around and around the axon, making it faster and faster. The oligodendrocyte, the cell that does the wrapping, actually has pseudopods that reach out to multiple axons to wrap. That wrapping process doesn't happen in just a week or two. It is ongoing well into the 3rd and 4th decade of life, with "peak myelin" being achieved between 40-50. (Yes, children, your parents are smarter than you.). The more myelin, the faster the transmission speed.

The analogy with computers is compelling. Faster computers are better. They compute faster. We want to make quantum computers so that we can catapult computing time massively allowing us to solve heretofore unsolvable problems, like your bank account password.

That's what the frontier of MRI scanning is now achieving. As the layer upon layer of myelin is laid down around the axon, a tiny bit of water is trapped between the lipid layers. A tightly wrapped axon will have just a tiny bit of water. It is detectable as a tiny bit. A damaged axon, for any number of reasons, will have more water. And that variation is also detectable. Multiple sclerosis, concussions, autism, manic depression, ADHD, all have shown v alterations of myelin density on MRI. This is obviously a developing field and more information is to follow.

But what about a high-functioning brain? Is a brain that is perfectly myelinated better than one that isn't? Here is the dilemma. The answer is probably yes, but not quite proven yet. Making myelin requires having sufficient plasmalogen lipids, the building blocks for constructing all those onion layer upon layer of myelin lipids. Making plasmalogen lipids is a delicate task that is put off by anything that damages cells' mitochondria and peroxisomes (where the plasmalogen backbone is constructed. MRI scans of twins suggest there is some genetic link with intelligence.....or is that link because the twins ate the same food? But preliminary studies are now beginning to confirm, more myelin, thicker axonal layers all correlate with better IQ. Hmmmm. Want your child to have one up on the competition?

www.What will Work for me. Prodrome Glia is the first compound to be on the market that has been proven to act as an engine to drive myelination in the brain. It has been proven to repair RDCP, the rare genetic disease of absolute plasmalogen production failure. This story has legs. We can fix the badly broken brain. Can we optimize it as well? Goodenowe's autism study is predicated on resolving the lack of healthy myelin easily documented in the brains of autistic folks, as well as in ADHD. It is clear that one of the "choke points" of human metabolism is the ability to manufacture plasmalogens. Yet, they play a massive role in the ability of our brains to function optimally. We can treat brain injuries of any source, including post-concussion syndrome. We are going to repair autism. Alzheimer's is next. Can we optimize our kids' brains with a little boost? (Answer? Probably yes)

References: Neuroimage , NIH, Frontiers In NeuroSci, ScienceDirect, eNeuro, Cell, Dev Neurobiol, KJR, WJP, Medical News Today, Intelligence, Brain Pathology,

Pop Quiz

1. A newborn baby has a fully functioning brain? T or F.                           Answer: Absolutely false. It is just starting to wrap its axons. Huge deficit in plasmalogens at birth.

2. The richest food source for newborns is what?                      Answer: Mother's breast milk. It provides about 30 mg/kg per day of plasmalogens. Cow's milk and formula provide zero.

3. The more breastfeeding, the less autism. T or F.                      Answer: True as proved by many, many studies.

4. If giving plasmalogen supplements repairs a disease called autism, what does giving, even more, do for otherwise normal kids?                 Answer: It makes sense to believe that it fixes a lot. SAT tests to follow.

5. Is there any toxicity to taking plasmalogen-building supplements?                       Answer: They are GRAS, generally recognized as safe. No toxicity.