Using anti-anxiety medication can put someone at significant risk of developing cognitive decline later in life, and scientists may have finally figured out why.
Researchers at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANTSO) found that the drugs can affect the brain’s microglial cells, which in turn disrupt dendritic spines – a key part of the brain’s neurons.
Essentially, the drugs slowly affect the part of the brain that electrifies and activates cells.
Millions of Americans use these drugs, and the link between them and an increased risk of cognitive decline later in life has long been known. The researchers hope their discovery will open the door to a new class of drugs that have less of a long-term impact on brain health.
Researchers discovered why anxiety drugs can lead to brain problems later in a person’s life and hope they’ve opened the door to a new class of drugs that won’t put users at risk of suffering from cognitive decline (file photo)
“This observation is important because long-term use of anti-anxiety medications is believed to contribute to an acceleration of dementia and how this might occur was not known,” Richard Banati, a professor at ANTSO, told Neuroscience News.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disease in which the buildup of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.
This disrupts the transmitters that transmit messages and causes the brain to shrink.
More than 5 million people have the disease in the US, where it is the sixth leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons have it.
When brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost.
These include memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason.
The course of the disease is slow and insidious.
On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some can live 10 to 15 years.
- loss of short-term memory
- behavior changes
- mood swings
- Difficulty handling money or using the phone
- Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
- Anxious and frustrated with inability to understand the world, leading to aggressive behavior
- Eventually lose the ability to walk
- May have trouble eating
- The majority will eventually require 24-hour care
Source: Alzheimer’s Association
He explains that the brain has billions of neurons, which are electrical impulses that carry information and send chemical signals between parts of the brain.
The neurons are connected to each other by a connection called a synapse.
Much of the research on the effects of anxiety medications on cognitive decline has focused on the neurons and synapses between them.
Instead, the ANTSO team decided to look for the microglial cells.
“These are small and highly mobile cells that are part of the non-neuronal matrix in which nerve cells are embedded,” explained Banati.
“This matrix makes up a significant part of the brain and actually directly affects how neural networks work.”
The team tested diazepam, a common anxiety drug, to see how it would respond to a neurological system in mice.
They found that it didn’t go directly to the synapses, but instead to the microglia — which many experts didn’t expect.
“The drug altered the normal activity of microglial cells and indirectly the maintenance function that microglia have around synaptic nerve cell junctions,” Banati explained.
“It is fascinating to see how the brain’s local immune system, which includes microglial cells, is directly involved in the overall functional integrity of the brain.”
This means that the reason why some who take the drug suffer from severe fatigue – and even dementia and other cognitive problems later in life – could lie in the microglial cells.
Experts describe it as frying the wires in a machine. If the wires become damaged, they may work more slowly – if not at all.
Eventually, if enough wires are damaged, the entire machine – in this case the brain – can lose some operations altogether.
The research is still in its early stages, but the groundbreaking results open the door to a new class of anxiety medications that may prevent the effects of mental illness without causing long-term damage to the brain.
It also comes at a welcome time as the number of Americans taking these drugs has surged during the pandemic — particularly young people.
Prescriptions for the drugs rose 21 percent at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the biggest jump among 13- to 19-year-olds.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk
https://www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com/health-news/anti-anxiety-drugs-can-interfere-with-a-persons-neurons-and-increase-risk-of-cognitive-decline/ Anti-anxiety medications can affect a person’s neurons and increase the risk of cognitive decline