Pregnanolone and Memory: The Importance of “Neurosteroids”
Published Jan 4, 2016
Ever heard of pregnanolone? Probably not, and shouldn’t be expected to. But if you are over 50, you likely should know about it. Your body is making much less now than you used to, and that may be part of why you can’t remember why you walked into that room, or where you put your keys. Your memory isn’t as supple as it used to be, and you feel stressed out about it.
Pregnanolone is the first steroid hormone made from cholesterol. It is the first of 6 steps towards making estradiol, another important Neurosteroid, or Progesterone, or Testosterone, all important sex hormones, but also brain hormones. Turns out that our brains make them too, and use them locally.
For memory to occur, you need to stimulate cells. The principal stimulating chemical is called glutamate, and it turns on the NMDA receptor. That’s the beginning of the cascade that puts down new synapses and creates memory. Now, glutamate functions in a very narrow range. Too much glutamate and you get “neuroexictotoxicity” and cell death. That’s the means by which MSG causes brain damage and may be part of the cause of Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons. And that’s where pregnonolone comes it. Not only does it get the memory switch turned on, but it softens the raw damage of too much glutatamate, protecting cells from overstimulation.
The research supporting all this has been done mostly in animals. For example, researchers have shown that pregnanolone reverses impaired learning in older rats. And it happens quickly. It gets even more interesting when you look at anxiety and memory. The side effects of many anti-anxiety medications, like Valium, is that they impair memory. Well, not if you take pregnanolone along with them. And if you want to withdraw from them, pregnanolone may be your best friend, making it easier to do with less rebound anxiety.
The mechanisms of neurosteroids is beginning to be understood. They appear to have a dramatic impact on two areas of brain health. First, they seem to make mitochondria more effective. Mitochondria are the little organs inside the brain cell that make energy molecules. Your brain uses 20% of your bodies energy, so each cell is producing a lot of it. Like our own power plants, producing energy has negative consequences that need amelioration. Reactive oxygen species escape the electron cascade in mitochondria, and need to be soaked up. The neurosteroids appear to help with that.
Pregnanolone also helps with the memory enhancing component of sleep called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. It increases the time you spend in REM sleep, and upregulates the amount of acetylcholine you make when you do so.
Finally, pregnanolone appears to play a role in building nanotubules inside the brain cell. These tubules appear to be part of the scaffolding that allows new synapses to be constructed and maintained. And that’s the core structure of memory being made. Cool, huh!
WWW. What will work for me. I’m interested in understanding how memory works. I’ve never measured my own levels, but I’m on it. It’s a pretty cheap supplement, and 15 mg a day appears to be the starting dose. Because it’s the parent hormone to many other steroids, there is some concern that it might spark some of the hormone sensitive cancers, but that has not been proven in any fashion. My New Years Resolution is to build a portfolio of memory enhancing ideas for myself, and for you. Hang on.
- Pregnanolone is a steroid hormone made in your brain? T or F
True. In your sex organs as well, but also in your brain
- It’s levels gradually rise with aging. T or F
False. They drop dramatically
- Pregnanolone, and all the neurosteroids, protect the brain from the damaging effects of too much glutamate. T or F
True, and don’t use that to justify eating more MSG
- Taking pregnanolone may help withdraw from Valium and other addicting drugs. T or F
- Pregnanolone may help your memory by increasing your REM sleep? T or F