Protein Linked to Brain and Muscle Performance

Researchers from the Salk Institute have discovered the driving force behind what enables a person to run and to memorize things is very similar.

Turns out both mental and physical activities are dependent on a single metabolic protein which controls blood flow and nutrient-transport throughout the body. This single protein controlling the show is called estrogen-related receptor gamma (ERRγ). ERRγ provides our bodies with energy for our muscles and brain.

Ronald Evans, the Director of the Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Lab, stated “The heart and muscles need a surge of energy to carry out exercise and neurons need a surge of energy to form new memories.”  Mr. Evans and his research team had previously worked with ERRγ in past studies conducted using sedentary mice. In 2011 the team found that by promoting ERRγ activity in the muscles of the sedentary test mice, the increased blood-flow which in turn doubled the mice’s running capacity. The team also found out that ERRγ did far more than they had ever realized. On top of the increased blood flow boosting performance capacity, ERRγ turns “on” a large group of muscle genes that convert fat into energy.

After the teams research in 2011, they began hypothesizing about why ERRγ would be active in the brain. This led them to find that ERRγ actually turns on fat-burning pathways in muscles and sugar-burning pathways in the brain. They also noted that ERRγ was most active in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is an area of the brain that produces new brain cells and is involved in learning and memory. And guess what else? It requires lots of energy… Just like muscles do to perform.

The team stated the results of their research showed the test mice who were missing ERRγ were very slow learners. A lead researcher in the study, Pei, stated that, “Everyone can learn, but some people learn and memorize more efficiently than others, and we now think this could be linked to changes in brain metabolism.

A better understanding of the metabolism of neurons could help scientists develop improved treatments for learning and attention disorders. The new study could also assist in potential treatments and methods for addressing defects in learning and memory.


Read the full article here on R&D.

Sources:  The Salk Institute


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