Brains, Booze and Berries
In this seminar I will discuss two important components of the Newfoundland diet, berries and ethanol. We have recently found that extracts from a variety of berries, e.g. blueberries and lingonberries, can protect cells of the brain from neurotoxic insults such as mechanically-induced trauma and high glutamate levels, which occurs in a variety of neurological disorders. However, the extent to which various compounds in berries can enter the brain, and the mechanism by which they exert protective effects is unknown. For example, we have found that extracts have high antioxidant activity, but in the brain protective activity may be manifested in other ways, such as through receptor modulation or anti-inflammatory activities. Another focus of research in my lab is analyzing the effects of adolescent binge ethanol exposure on long-term motor function and on cells of the cerebellum, an area of the brain associated with motor coordination and learning. In general, we have found that fairly high levels of ethanol exposure in the adolescent brain period in rodents can lead to long-term motor dysfunction and a loss of cells in the cerebellum. With more moderate ethanol exposure, animals exhibit motor problems initially, but seem to recover over time. I will elaborate on what these findings potentially mean, as well as future directions in both lines of research.