New Study Finds Fructose Alters Genes in the Brain, Sabotages Learning and Memory

Since childhood, most of us received the memo loud and clear that sugar is bad — usually where our teeth are concerned. As we grew older, other worries came into the forefront, especially during teenage and adult years where body image played an important role in modifying our sweet indulgences. Add a few more years and the threat of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and inflammation became a motivating force to steer clear of the sweet stuff.

New Study Finds Fructose Alters Genes in the Brain, Sabotages Learning and Memory

Now scientists have added yet another reason: poor brain function — particularly inhibited learning and memory. But it’s a specific type of sugar that wields such devastating effects — one that can be found in almost every form of processed food in the U.S. and beyond. That sugar is fructose.

Glucose vs fructose: The devil is in the details

Usually, we tend to lump all sugars together as harmful, but emerging science is beginning to realize that not all sugars are the same. Research presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology discovered that the brain responds very differently depending on the type of sugar. Take for example fructose. When your brain is hit with this sugar, it excites the reward circuits in the brain, triggering a feeling of hunger whenever a food cue is present — like a television commercial for a restaurant. In contrast, when we ingest glucose, the brain reacts by prompting a feeling of satiety, instead of hunger.

Such wildly different reactions can mean the difference between obesity and maintaining a healthy weight. If we would like to avoid problematic forms of sugar, where do we begin? Medical Daily explains the three kinds of sugar and where they can be found in the food supply:

“Technically, there are three types of simple sugar: glucose, fructose, and galactose, which is not usually added to commercially processed foods as it is not as sweet. Glucose is the body’s primary source of energy and is usually produced through the breakdown of complex carbohydrates. Foods high in glucose include dried fruits, fresh fruits, and to a lesser extent grains, beans, vegetables, and nuts. While the same foods, especially fruit, also contain fructose, this type of simple sugar is added to many processed foods in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.”

Studies have established that glucose diminishes activity in the area of the brain called the hypothalamus, whereas fructose doesn’t. The hypothalamus is in charge of a range of metabolic processes — including hunger and thirst. When rats were fed fructose, researchers found that there was a smaller increase of satiety hormones compared to when the animals consumed glucose — the latter experiment prompted the rats to act as if sated.

Next, the research team tested their theory on human subjects, enrolling 24 men and women volunteers, ages 16-25. Each was given a beverage containing either fructose or glucose. While the participants viewed images of food, the researchers took fMRI scans of their brains. The volunteers documented how much they wanted to eat with each new image that they viewed.

The findings?

Food cues activated the brain’s “reward circuit” with both types of sugar. However, the activation was more pronounced in the group who consumed the fructose drink. They also reported higher levels of hunger and motivation to eat.

As if expanding waistlines and all the health complications tied to obesity weren’t enough, fructose has also been shown to play a major role in blunting our intelligence, hindering memory and obstructing learning.

The truth about your brain on fructose

“A range of diseases — from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, and from Alzheimer’s disease to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — are linked to changes to genes in the brain. A new study by UCLA life scientists has found that hundreds of those genes can be damaged by fructose, a sugar that’s common in the Western diet, in a way that could lead to those diseases.” ~ UCLA Newsroom

Americans consume an inordinate amount of fructose — mainly in the form of foods sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, an inexpensive liquid sweetener made from corn starch. According to the Department of Agriculture, Americans ingested a staggering 27 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup in 2014. Fructose is also found in fruit, but the fiber significantly slows absorption of the sugar. Plus it contains other healthy elements, which help to mitigate any negative effects.

New Study Finds Fructose Alters Genes in the Brain, Sabotages Learning and Memory - fb

During the study, researchers from The University of California, Los Angeles, sequenced more than 20,000 genes in test animals and found that over 200 genes in the hippocampus (the region that regulates learning and memory) were altered by fructose.

“The altered genes they identified, the vast majority of which are comparable to genes in humans, are among those that interact to regulate metabolism, cell communication and inflammation,” states the UCLA press release. Conditions associated with these alterations include Parkinson’s disease, depression, bipolar disorder and other brain diseases.

The team discovered that fructose disrupts the genes by removing or adding a biochemical group to cytosine — one of the nucleotides comprising DNA. These changes are responsible for turning genes “on” or “off.”

Lead researcher Fernando Gomez-Pinilla found in earlier research that “fructose damages communication between brain cells and increases toxic molecules in the brain; and that a long-term high-fructose diet diminishes the brain’s ability to learn and remember information.” He advises avoiding sugary drinks, reducing desserts and consuming overall less sugar.

The good news is that if one has already suffered harmful changes produced by fructose, they can be reversed by the omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA.

“DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable,” said Xia Yang, a senior author of the study and a UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology. “And we can see why it has such a powerful effect.”

DHA strengthens the connections in the brain and strengthens learning and memory. The omega-3 fatty acid is abundant in wild salmon as well as walnuts, flaxseed, vegetables and fruits.

While DHA appears to be exceptionally beneficial, it’s not a cure all — more research is needed to establish the extent of it’s ability to reverse damage to human genes.

The Amazing Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Of all the treats available, chocolate is one of the most popular foods in the world. The first solid chocolate bar, made from cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar, was introduced by the British chocolate company J.S. Fry & Sons in 1847, but the history of chocolate goes back at least 4,000 years.1

Amazing Health Benefits Dark Chocolate

Pre-Olmec cultures in Mexico produced chocolate as early as 1900 B.C. Originally, it was consumed as a bitter beverage. The cacao beans were fermented, roasted, and then ground into a paste that was mixed with water and spices like chili peppers and vanilla, sweetened with honey. Throughout its history, chocolate — “the food of the Gods” — has remained a symbol of luxury, wealth, and power. During the 14th century, the Aztecs and Mayans even used cacao beans as currency.

Research has also revealed chocolate has some rather impressive health benefits, provided you’re willing to give up the now-familiar sweetness of modern day milk chocolate.

The Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs valued cacao for its mood enhancing and aphrodisiac properties, and it was typically reserved for the ruling class. In the 17th century, cocoa and chocolate were considered potential medicine, and historical documents in Europe reveal they were used to treat angina and heart pain.2

Not All Chocolate Is Created Equal

Raw cacao is actually quite bitter, not sweet, due to the nearly 400 polyphenols that are present. When we’re referring to the health benefits of chocolate, this is the chocolate we’re referring to. Americans consume an estimated 12 pounds of chocolate per capita each year.3

Unfortunately, the vast majority of that is in the form of milk chocolate candy, which contains very minute amounts of healthy cacao, and loads of sugar. The milk added to milk chocolate can also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb the beneficial antioxidants (polyphenols) in the chocolate.

Chocolate Terminology

To get off on the right foot, it may be helpful to understand the distinction between cacao, cocoa, and chocolate:4

  • Cacao: Refers to the plant, a small evergreen tree of the species Theobroma cacao, and its dried seeds, also known as cacao beans or cocoa beans, prior to processing.

Amazing Health Benefits Dark Chocolate - CacaoIf you’re after health benefits, raw cacao nibs are what you’re looking for. Ideally, buy them whole and grind them yourself (a coffee grinder can be used for this) when using it in recipes.

Alternatively, you can eat them whole, just like you’d eat conventional chocolate chips. A healthy amount would probably be around ½ to 1 ounce per day. I personally grind 1 tablespoon of raw cacao nibs twice a day and put them into my smoothies.

  • Cocoa: Refers to the roasted cacao, ground into a powder from which most of the fat has been removed.
  • Cocoa butter: The fat component of the cacao seed.
  • Chocolate: The solid food or candy made from a preparation of roasted cacao seeds; if the cacao seeds are not roasted, then you have “raw chocolate.”

When selecting chocolate, look for higher cacao and lower sugar content. In general, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cacao content.

However, since cacao is bitter, the higher the percentage cacao, the more bitter it is (the polyphenols are what make the chocolate bitter, so manufacturers often remove them. But, it’s those polyphenols that are responsible for many of chocolate’s health benefits).

To counteract the bitterness, most chocolate is sweetened, so it’s a matter of balancing nutritional benefit with palatability. For health benefits, choose chocolate with a cacao percentage of about 70 or higher.

  • “White chocolate” contains no cocoa at all; it’s just a health-zapping mix of pasteurized milk and sugar.

Cocoa Contains Hundreds of Health-Promoting Chemicals

Cacao’s benefits are related to naturally occurring compounds in the bean, including epicatechin (a flavonoid) and resveratrol, the former of which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and is thought to help shield your nerve cells from damage.

Resveratrol, a potent antioxidant, is known for its neuroprotective effects. It has the ability to cross your blood-brain barrier, which allows it to moderate inflammation in your central nervous system (CNS).

This is significant because CNS inflammation plays an important role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

Recent science also shows resveratrol is an exercise mimic and produces similar benefits as exercise to the mitochondria by stimulating AMPK and PKC-1alpha which increase mitochondrial biogenesis and mitophagy.

Norman Hollenberg, a professor of medicine at Harvard who has spent years studying the Kuna people of Panama (who consume up to 40 cups of cocoa a week), believes epicatechin is so important it should be considered a vitamin.5

The Kuna have less than a 10 percent risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes, which are the most prevalent diseases ravaging the Western world.6

Indeed, many studies have confirmed that cacao can benefit your heart, blood vessels, brain, nervous system, and helps combat diabetes and other conditions rooted in inflammation.

  • One 2012 meta-analysis7 found that eating chocolate could slash your risk of cardiovascular disease by 37 percent and your stroke risk by 29 percent.
  • Another meta-analysis8 published that same year found that cocoa/chocolate lowered insulin resistance, reducedblood pressure, increased blood vessel elasticity, and slightly reduced LDL. In one study,9 patients consuming 100 grams of flavanol-rich dark chocolate for 15 days showed decreased insulin resistance.
  • According to a paper10,11 published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, cocoa polyphenols may have specific benefits for cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, metabolic disorders, and cancer prevention. The authors note that:

“Cocoa contains about 380 known chemicals, 10 of which are psychoactive compounds … Cocoa has more phenolics and higher antioxidant capacity than green tea, black tea, or red wine … The phenolics from cocoa may … protect against diseases in which oxidative stress is implicated as a causal or contributing factor, such as cancer.They also have antiproliferative, antimutagenic, and chemoprotective effects, in addition to their anticariogenic effects.”

Chocolate and Human Health

A 2013 paper12 in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine also reviews the many health benefits of cacao, noting that many consider it a “complete food,” as it contains:

  • Healthy fats
  • Antioxidants
  • Nitrogenous compounds, including proteins, methylxanthines theobromine, and caffeine (central nervous system stimulants, diuretics, and smooth muscle relaxants. Theobromine is the ingredient that can cause heartburn in some individuals; on the other hand, it also inhibits persistent cough by reducing vagus nerve activity13)
  • Minerals, including potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium
  • Valeric acid (which acts as a stress reducer despite the presence of stimulants)

The following table highlights the wide range of positive health benefits science suggests are conferred by the cocoa bean.14,15,16

Anti-inflammatory17(including 17 percent reduction in C-reactive protein) Anti-carcinogenic18 Anti-thrombotic,19including improving endothelial function20 Neuroprotectivebenefits and lowered Alzheimer’s risk21
Anti-diabetic22 Anti-obesity effects, possibly due to the polyphenols’ ability to suppress fatty acid synthesis while stimulating cell energy expenditure in the mitochondria23 Cardioprotective,24including lowering blood pressure,25improving lipid profile, and helping prevent atrial fibrillation26 Improved liver function for those with cirrhosis27
Improves skin condition, and protection against UV damage28 Improves gastrointestinal flora29 Reduces stress hormones Protects vision,30and reduces symptoms of glaucoma31 and diabetes-induced cataracts32
Slows progression of periodontitis33 Improves exercise endurance34 May help extend lifespan35 Protects against preeclampsia in pregnant women36

Processing Destroys Many Valuable Nutrients

As noted in the Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity paper,37 the nutrients found in raw cacao are easily altered and destroyed through processing. The bitterness of raw cacao beans is due to their high concentration of polyphenols.

To some people, cacao is virtually inedible because of its bitterness. To make it more palatable, chocolate manufacturersdecrease the polyphenol content, and as a result you can find products containing anywhere from 10 to 100 percent polyphenols.

In dried fresh cacao beans, the total polyphenol content is around 15 to 20 percent, whereas fermented, non-defatted beans contain just 5 percent. The reason for this is because the fermentation process reduces epicatechin and soluble polyphenol content by as much as 20 percent; anthocyanidins are removed altogether, and procyanidins are decreased by as much as 500 percent.

The phenolic content of cocoa also varies depending on its origin. For example, Costa Rican cocoa contains more than 16.5 milligrams (mg) of catechins per gram (g), whereas Jamaican cocoa contains less than 2.7 mg per gram.

Amazing Health Benefits Dark Chocolate - ApplesApples May Boost Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Many real foods, eaten as close to their natural state as possible, can be considered “superfoods.” This applies to dark chocolate as well. Interestingly, certain superfoods produce great synergy when combined,38 meaning the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. When eaten in combination, the two foods become even healthier than eating them separately, on their own.

Eating apples is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, an association thought to be related to their antioxidant flavonoid content,39 including the anti-inflammatory quercetin. As noted earlier, dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidant catechins, has also been found to support heart health. When paired, dark chocolate and apples have been shown to break up blood clots, thereby reducing your risk ofstroke.

There are a couple of caveats though. Since much of the antioxidant content of an apple is found in its peel, you’ll want to leave the peel on when you eat it. For this reason, look for organic apples, to avoid ingesting pesticides and other chemicals. For chocolate, the closer it is to its natural raw state, the higher its nutritional value, so look for higher cacao and lower sugar content. Your best bet is raw cacao nibs, if you can tolerate the bitterness.

Make Your Own Chocolate Treats

Based on the evidence, there’s little doubt that dark, minimally processed chocolate is a real superfood. Just don’t mistake your average chocolate bar or chocolate-covered candy for a health food! To reap the benefits, it likely needs to be at least 70 percent cacao. Better yet, opt for the raw cacao nibs. I eat about 1 ounce of raw nibs per day.

If you can’t tolerate the bitterness, use them to make your own chocolate treat, to which you can add some harmless sweeteners. In the video above, I demonstrate a recipe I created from scratch using high-quality ingredients. As you will see, there are no specific measurements, so go ahead and tweak it to your own taste.

As a base, I use raw cocoa butter and organic coconut oil. You could also use raw organic grass-fed butter in lieu of the cocoa butter. Keep in mind that these ingredients will cause the candy to melt at lower temperatures, so you will most likely need to keep it in the refrigerator to keep it from melting. Next, I add 1/8 of a cup of raw cocoa powder.

Alternatively, grind your raw cacao nibs. For sweetness, I add about 3 teaspoons of Lo-Han powder and some Stevia. Cinnamon powder, mint, vanilla and/or orange extracts can also be added for flavor.

Since the majority of these ingredients are healthy fats, and there’s no added sugar, this treat will not stimulate your insulin release like most commercial candy bars will, even those with higher cacao content. Hence you get the best of both worlds — a chocolate treat with plenty of health benefits and few if any detriments.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, you may want to experiment with making your own candy this year. Stores like Amazon and Michael’s sell all sorts of candy molds you can use for the occasion.

Promising Research Offers New Hope in Understanding and Treating Autism

“A new government survey of parents suggests that 1 in 45 children, ages 3 through 17, have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is notably higher than the official government estimate of 1 in 68 American children with autism, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).” ~ Autism Speaks

Promising Research Offers New Hope in Understanding and Treating Autism

For most parents, a diagnosis of autism can be a terrifying prospect. Not only will the child require extra care and extensive therapy, potentially straining financial resources and relationships, but will also demand significant emotional, physical and mental fortitude from the parents. More often than not, this commitment is for an entire lifetime because these kids don’t turn 18 and suddenly become independent and self-sufficient. Have a look at any message board about special needs children and you will find comments like: “I’m barely keeping my head above water” or “I don’t know how much more I can take,” “I’m irritable — always,” “I had to go on antidepressants just to cope,” along with remarks about extreme stress, exhaustion, burnout and marriages falling apart. For parents, the demands are exceptional — and the reality is oftentimes harsh.

Frequently, families struggling with autism also share another characteristic: a keen eye for the latest scientific research that has the potential to help their children. It very well may be a lifelong search, but two recent breakthroughs show promise and have given parents of autistic children newfound hope.

A major discovery in understanding autism

Late in 2015, scientists found, for the first time, a direct link between autistic behavior and a type of brain chemical responsible for communicating information between nerve cells. Published in the journal Current Biology, Harvard and MIT researchers discovered that many of the symptoms stemming from autism appear to be directly linked with issues utilizing gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a neurotransmitter that inhibits brain cells from becoming overwhelmed by sensory information.

Writes Julia Luri in “Scientists Just Made a Major Breakthrough in Understanding Autism” :

‘“Autism is often described as a disorder in which all the sensory input comes flooding in at once, so the idea that an inhibitory neurotransmitter was important fit with the clinical observations,” said Caroline Robertson, the lead researcher, in a statement. While many of us can simply tune out everyday sights or sounds — say, the sight of a grate on the sidewalk or the noise of a car driving by — those with autism are inundated with a deluge of sensory information that can turn everyday environments into distressing experiences.”

Moreover, Robertson notes that approximately 25% of those with autism also have epilepsy, which is the result of “runaway excitation in the brain.” She adds, “It’s not that there’s no GABA in the brain. It’s that there’s some step along that pathway that’s broken.” Put another way, an autistic brain has adequate levels of GABA, but the problem lies as to the way it’s used or processed.

GABA is known for inhibiting all kinds of sensory stimulation. The research team hopes to develop a drug in the future that improves the utilization of GABA in the brain, which in turn would help reduce the sensory symptoms of autism.

While parents are waiting for further research and development on the GABA front, another encouraging treatment is creating waves in the autism community — and it’s readily available today.

Promising Research Offers New Hope in Understanding and Treating Autism - GABA and control

Compound in broccoli may help ease symptoms of autism

A trial published in the journal PNAS found the phytochemical sulforaphane (derived from broccoli sprouts) significantly improved social interaction, behavior and verbal communication in young men (aged 13-27) with moderate to severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Over the course of 18 weeks, 29 young men were given daily oral administrations of sulforaphane, while 15 participants received a placebo, during the placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial.

By the fourth week, parent’s reported that many of the boys taking the extract began to demonstrate improvements in repetitive behaviors, hyperactivity, irritability and communication. The study staff, unaware of who was receiving the extract or placebo, also noticed similar changes. An impressive 46 percent of the sulforaphane group experienced improved social interactions by the eighteenth week, 42 percent were making strides in verbal communication, and 54 percent exhibited reduced “aberrant” behaviors.

None in the placebo group experienced improvement in social interactions or verbal communications, but nine percent did show improvement in aberrant behaviors, the study reported.

As noted by the research team:

“Dietary sulforaphane, of recognized low toxicity, was selected for its capacity to reverse abnormalities that have been associated with ASD, including oxidative stress and lower antioxidant capacity, depressed glutathione synthesis, reduced mitochondrial function and oxidative phosphorylation, increased lipid peroxidation, and neuroinflammmation.”

However, two of the young men on sulforaphane did experience seizures. Both have a history of epilepsy, so the compound isn’t necessarily to blame. But “it’s still a possible risk that should be studied,” Dr. Paul Wang, head of medical research for the nonprofit Autism Speaks, told CBS News.

Conflict of interest statement: U.S. patent applications have been filed by The Johns Hopkins University (inventors K.D.S., P.T., and A.W.Z.). P.T. and A.W.Z. have divested themselves from all potential financial benefits. The sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extract is not a commercial product. Broccoli sprouts and seeds rich in glucosinolates have been licensed by Johns Hopkins to Brassica Protection Products LLC (A. Talalay, son of P.T., is chief executive officer).

Do Lunar Cycles Really Influence Us?

The moon has long been a source of wonder and inspiration to humans. Often associated with the mysterious feminine energy and the dreamy, irrational side of life, it has been held responsible for inspiring visions, revelations, and even madness.

New Moon in Aries - Giving Life to Our New Inner Reality

Back in the days before artificial light, humans couldn’t help but be directly affected by, and aware of, the varying stages of its cycles. When the moon was full, people could be more active as the light enabled them to engage in activities like hunting and celebrating, while the dark nights of the New Moon were more suited to quiet, more internally focused, reflective activities. Women especially experienced an intimate connection because our own body cycles closely mirrored those of the moon. Yet, as humanity has distanced itself from nature in general, living in increasingly artificial conditions, the synchronous relationship between humans and lunar cycles has diminshed.

“The true joy of a moonlit night is something we no longer understand. Only the men of old, when there were no lights, could understand the true joy of a moonlit night.” ~ Yasunari Kawabata, Palm-of-the-Hand Stories

However, as distant as modern life is from the days of living by the lunar phases, there are still many who claim that, whether we are aware of it or not, humans are affected by the subtle influence of our closest celestial body. Issues ranging from difficulty sleeping to increased crime rates and hospital visits have been linked with the effects of the Full Moon. What is interesting is that, although there are many who insist that the lunar influence is a reality, science has largely claimed that the perceived effect of the moon on the inhabitants of Earth is a myth with no basis in fact. Many mainstream science articles espouse a condescending tone, disparaging those who believe the moon affects us and arguing such beliefs belong in the realms of magical thinking. (And once again, an aspect of the divine feminine is denigrated and dismissed.)

Those scientific findings, however, are not consistent with the disparaging rhetoric. For example, one article published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) examined the incidence of crimes reported to three police stations in different towns (one rural, one urban, one industrial). The period of the study covered a four year period. The findings revealed that the incidence of crimes committed on Full Moon days was significantly higher than on all other days.

In relation to sleep disturbances, a report appearing in Current Biology (a Cell Press publication) provided some compelling scientific evidence that suggests that moon influences are a reality. The findings support the idea that even though we have distanced ourselves from nature we continue to respond to the geophysical rhythms of the moon. “The lunar cycle seems to influence human sleep, even when one does not ‘see’ the moon and is not aware of the actual moon phase,” stated Christian Cajochen of the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel.


In the study quoted above, researchers monitored the brain patterns of 33 volunteers in a lab while they slept. The data demonstrated that around the Full Moon, brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by 30 percent. People also took an average of five minutes longer to fall asleep, and they slept for twenty minutes less time overall. Study participants also showed diminished levels of melatonin, a hormone known to regulate sleep and wake cycles.

“This is the first reliable evidence that a lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans when measured under the highly controlled conditions of a circadian laboratory study protocol without time cues,” the researchers say.

Additionally, in a recent article published in 2015 in the Oxford University Press, author Earnest Naylor states that increasing evidence supports the theory that moon cycles affect living organisms. Their findings show that circalunar biological clocks (lunar related patterns) are embedded in the genes of many creatures including marine, fresh water and dry-land species.

So although there is no clear consensus in the scientific arena on whether lunar influences are fact or fiction, there is enough evidence to suggest that those who feel, or believe in, the moon’s ability to affect us, might not be so silly after all. If animals are genetically wired to the cycles of the moon, it hardly seems like a wild, misaligned leap of logic to think that humans might be as well. Because although we like to distance ourselves from our fellow creatures, seeing ourselves as superior beings, that fact remains that our bodies are of the Earth and inescapably subject to its natural laws. Really, since humans have spent the majority of our evolution in deep relationship with lunar cycles it would seem strange if we, unlike the majority of life on Earth, had not internalized these rhythms at a deep level.

Moreover, we know that the moon through its gravitational pull creates the powerful tides in the ocean. Since our bodies are as much as 80% water, and the brain’s percentage is even higher, it would be surprising if the moon didn’t have some affect on us.

As an interesting aside, on the opposite end of the spectrum of scientific belief we have people like David Icke and Montalk, who believe that not only does the moon have an effect on us, but that it was intentionally created to act as a key part of the matrix of control, distorting the universal frequency and keeping humanity operating within a low vibrational range.

New Moon in Capricorn - Standing Strong in a Paradox of Darkness and Light

Personally, I prefer to follow my inner knowing rather than rely on any external authority or opinion. I have found that, by tuning into the moon’s progression, I feel much more deeply connected to my environment. By aligning my activities with the phases of the moon I generally feel more in the flow, and more productive in my activities.

“[The moon]… is an example of practiced stability… It wanes when it must, and reliably returns to full strength… It is a humble model of reasonable potential that I can emulate, and follow.” ~ Terry Crawford Palardy

Aligning to the Rhythm of the Moon

For those interested in aligning more with the rhythm of the moon, I will provide a brief breakdown of the basic moon phases. Each phase lasts approximately 4 days, with the peak of each phase falling in the middle. The period from the New Moon to the Full Moon, when it appears to be growing, is called the Waxing period. This is a great time to focus on that which we want to see grow and expand. The period from just after the Full Moon until the New Moon, when it appears to getting smaller, is called the Waning period. This period is excellent for successful endings and release.

New Moon: The days when the visible moon is smallest and the night is darkest. This phase is a good time for deep internal work, for quiet introspection. It’s also a time for planning, for exploring options and approaches and identifying what we want to bring into fruition. Key word: beginnings

Crescent Moon: The visible surface of the moon is expanding. This is the time for honing ideas and setting intentions. Keyword: catalyst

First Quarter Moon: Time for getting busy and taking actual steps to bring an idea into fruition. Keyword: action

Gibbous Moon: This is a great time to go over plans, polish, make changes and adjustments Keyword: refining

Full Moon: The size of the moon is at its peak and its influence acts to magnify. This is a time for finishing, and celebration. Keyword: completion

Disseminating Moon: This is a great time for connecting with others, and for expressing gratitude. Keyword: cooperation

Last Quarter Moon: With the visible moon growing smaller it is a great time to release that which no longer serves. Activities that involve quitting or lessening are ideally initiated in this phase. Keyword: release

Balsamic Moon: A quiet time to look within. Time to nourish the soul, to take time out for self and build up strength. Keyword: recuperate.

Is Your Heart Being Electromagnetically Distorted by Microwave Radiation?

Your heart produces an electromagnetic field 5000 times as powerful as that produced by your brain.[1] This field projects from your physical body to contribute to the circumvent field or aura. 60–65 % of heart cells are neural cells connected to the central nervous system and brain and concomitant with the amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus and cortex.[2]

Is your Heart being Electromagnetically Distorted by Microwave Radiation

One way the heart communicates with the brain and the rest of the body is ‘energetically’. If the electromagnetic energetics of the heart are altered so are the resultant communication signals. In fact, heart transplant recipients often show a different personality post-operation, literally having a ‘change in heart’.

The metaphysical phenomena of chakras has also been scientifically verified. In one test visible light was generated from the heart chakra. [3]

The heart is a dynamic, non-linear harmonic oscillator.[4] The heart’s pacemaker cells are biological oscillators that generate an electric field. Simultaneously the heart produces a magnetic field which forms a pattern similar to a standard magnet.[5] This electromagnetic field is a constantly shifting spectrum of frequencies with vast amounts of information contained in each frequency. This field is torus shaped (pictured above), just like the energy field of all living organisms, including the cells of our body, plants and the earth. And, as with a holograph, each segment of the heart’s field holds all information for the whole field.[6]


As a non-linear oscillator, the heart is extremely sensitive to disturbance of its dynamic equilibrium. Heart cells entrain (or synchronise) to beat in unison with adjacent cells.[7] Entrainment occurs in-utero and during infancy. The field of an infant is entrained through the mother’s electromagnetic field. This is the basis for the developmental psychology understanding of the impact of the mother’s emotional state during pregnancy and postnatal period. Depending whether a mother experiences protracted fear or love during pregnancy, her electromagnetic field entrains the vibrational energy field of her child accordingly.

However, as adults our unique signature field can also be entrained — see Frustrated Partner Equivalent below. Today, with increased exposure to microwave radiation (especially from wireless communication technology), we are now overlaid with electromagnetic fields at levels often millions of times higher than two decades ago, which is unnaturally distorting our energy field. With thermal effect limits in place that allow microwave power density levels up to the point of cooking flesh, evidence suggests at least 3–5% of us are experiencing serious symptoms of microwave exposure [8] and 35% of us may be experiencing milder symptoms.[9]

So, if for no apparent reason your health is feeling ‘off’, consider whether microwave radiation exposure may be a contributing environmental factor.

Along with radiation power density levels, the shape of radiation is an important factor for human health. Microwave transmissions can be in the form of pulsed modulated linear-synthetic waveforms [on/off rectangles] which are vastly different to the non-linear fields of our body-mind, which are also found throughout Nature. Exposure to these forms of microwave radiation therefore has a disruptive effect on the body and its electromagnetic field. For instance a decade ago when communications technologies transitioned from 2G (GSM) to 3G (UTMS), scientific research suggested that “UMTS is ten times more damaging to the genes than GSM radiation.”[10] Current 4G (LTE) technology was launched prior to any studies on its physical/energetic effects.

“The heart’s field not only permeates every cell in the body but also radiates outside of us… Just as cell phones and radio stations transmit information via an electromagnetic field, recent research has led some scientists to propose that a similar information transfer process occurs via the electromagnetic field produced by the heart… [which] can be measured up to 10 feet away.”[12]

Radiation Pollution Sickness — The Four E’s

Symptoms of radiation pollution sickness — including anxiety, irritability, insomnia and headaches — may all be examined from the perspective of energy field discordance. Again, if you are suffering from these symptoms, consider whether microwave radiation exposure may be a contributing factor.

When it comes to factors that lead to symptoms of radiation pollution sickness (electromagnetic hypersensitivity), I talk about the four E’s:

  1. Empathic factors: A naturally sensitive constitution. (On the flipside sensitivity is a gift.)
  2. Exposure factors: Cumulative chronic and acute episodes ‘add up’ to leave us more susceptible to physical decline.
  3. Environmental factors: Multiple toxicity factors including mould, chemicals and bacterial infections compound the effects of exposure.
  4. Emotional factors: Anxiety, stress and trauma induce the cellular stress response, thus it becomes more difficult for our cells to oxygenate and detoxify the effects of microwave pollution.[11]

Frustrated Partner Equivalent

You are at home and you hear the door opening. Before your partner enters, you know he has had a bad day. Your ‘antennas’ (energy field through the aura and heart especially) picks up his transmission. If your field is weak (low amplitude) it may entrain to the ‘frustration field’ of your partner. Soon the shared field is one of discordance and arguments. I call this phenomenon ‘psychic pollution’. When we pick up the incoherent electromagnetic field of our partner, our emotional state is influenced.

Microwave antenna towers can be considered frustrated partner equivalents. They generate incoherent waveforms at multiple frequencies (overlaying to generate noise). We receive and process these electromagnetic fields in the same way we receive and process (or interact with) the electromagnetic field of our partner.

Is Your Heart Being Electromagnetically Distorted by Microwave Radiation 1

Disease or disease that was about to develop shows on our unique signature field as jagged incoherent waveforms concentrated in the low and high frequency bands. ‘Deficiency pattern’ diseases such as cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome showed up as incoherent patterns in the high frequencies. ‘Hyperactive pattern’ conditions such as hypertension and skin problems showed as incoherence at low frequencies.[13]



Wellness begins in the energy field! Continue seeking to optimise inner health and harmony (deep happiness) and the result will be a strengthened personal energy field that is less susceptible to entrainment from psychic and electromagnetic pollution. Rather than ‘protect’, focus on the question: “Do I want to take on these energies or do I now decide to radiate my own energies?” Reinforce your decision: “I now decide to radiate my own energies.”[14]

Observe your tendency to want a ‘magic pill’, a device or pendant. You do not need a $400 device claiming to ‘protect’ you from radiation. A mindset shift is required. Your passage with radiation pollution sickness (mild to severe symptoms) is a unique opportunity for inner transformation. Based on experimentation and research, I do not recommend spending thousands of dollars on products, as I did. Follow your inner guidance. Occasionally we are drawn to something intuitively (versus coming from a place of desperation). After trialling many products my preferred support came from a couple of $10 crystals. They were not used to ‘protect’ me from radiation pollution but rather to aid the internal processing of a vibrational stage of my journey (a few months only). Focus on inner health and skip the products unless they really call you.


What if your family switched off all Wi-Fi and other emitting devices and from 8pm to 8am each day? Can you hardwire your internet connection at work, and at home? Can you use an air tube headset with your cell phone, or use the speaker function? (This article offers a number of ideas to help you protect yourself from laptop radiation: How to Protect Yourself from Laptop Radiation.)

If you are very ill, an immediate radiation detox is essential.[15] This may require an upheaval of your life. Seek to see the gifts in the changes you need to make and what initially may feel like a ‘loss of freedom’.

For information on radiation detox, please see the following articles:

Without Action, Nothing Will Change

As you regain your health you may ask “How can I give back to the consciousness shift I have chosen to be part of?” You will be ‘microwave savvy’ by now, so how can you share your new insights and take action at family, school and community levels? In a visual-sense dominated world, even a five minute chat about your experience with invisible microwave radiation pollution can create a shift in others. Say thanks – I wrote the book Playing GOD: Biological and Spiritual Effects of Electromagnetic Radiation partly to say ‘Thank you for the unique new messages I received on this topic, and here are many of them to assist others on their journey.’

This is a crucial year to demand telcos turn down the ‘volume’ on the antenna tower in your suburb, reject smart metersand share awareness on the topic with local council, state and federal parliamentarians, school parent and teacher groups and friends. We are asking the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency — “the federal government agency charged with responsibility for protecting the health and safety of people, and the environment, from the harmful effects of ionising and non-ionising radiation”[16] — to reduce limits by 100 times as an immediate action – with more to follow. Currently there is no recognition of electromagnetic radiation as a contributing environmental factor in illness, so you will likely be derided by your doctor if you bring it up! Via a petition we are seeking a core knowledge upgrade for medical doctors including:

  1. Cumulative effects: Studies have shown cumulative microwave exposure causes a slowdown of subject work function (behavioral decline) and then eventually a complete failure to respond.[17]
  2. Chronic illness: Studies of cultures show pathological organisms dominate when exposed to electromagnetic radiation. The ‘mystery’ illnesses such as Lyme-like infections and Ricketts for instance are linked to electromagnetic radiation toxicity. Studies show mould generates far more toxicity when radiation exposed.
  3. Genotoxicity: Research shows genotoxicity occurs at minute exposure levels potentially leading to altered cellular function, cancer and cell death.[18]
  4. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity has similarities with multiple chemical sensitivity, relating to underlying changes of the nervous system.

I’ve offered to guide doctors to the next level of understanding on this topic and have so far met (mostly) resistance, however alternative health practitioners are embracing new concepts. Change is afoot. Can you talk to a group of doctors and health practitioners in your town?

Married People Are 14% Less Likely To Die After A Heart Attack Than Singles, Finds Study

The benefits of marriage extend beyond social interaction and tax breaks to certain health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and a longer life. Now, new research presented at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference in Manchester suggests that married people who suffer heart attacks may be more likely to survive and need fewer days in the hospital afterwards.

Researchers at institutions including Aston Medical School and the University of East Anglia found that married people were 14 percent less likely to die after a heart attack than single people. They are also more likely to be discharged from a hospital two days sooner than single people, which is a financial benefit.

“Our results should not be a cause for concern for single people who have had a heart attack.” Dr. Nicholas Gollop of the University of East Anglia said in a statement. “But they should certainly be a reminder to the medical community of the importance of considering the support a heart attack survivor will get once they’re discharged.”

For the study, researchers examined more than 25,000 patients diagnosed with heart attack between January 2000 and March 2013. Nearly 12,000 were married, 2,500 were single, more than 1,000 were divorced, 4,000 were widowed, and more than 5,000 were unmarried. It also included five people who had a common law relationship, 284 who were separated, and 241 people whose marriage or relationship status were unknown. Participants were on average age 67; 80 percent were white; and 64 percent male.

Thirty-eight percent of the heart attack patients died, and survivors stayed in the hospital for seven days on average. Widowed patients had the highest mortality rate at 62.9 percent, with unmarried, married, and divorced patients coming in at 35.3, 34.3 and 34.2 percent, respectively. Single patients only had a crude mortality of 29.7 percent. However, after accounting for age, sex, and gender, researchers found that married, widowed, and never-married patients had statistically lower mortality rates when compared to single people, or those who may have been married before. Based on the findings, researchers concluded that marital status has a clinically important impact on heart attack survival and length of hospital stay as single patients showed higher mortality rates and longer length of hospital stay compared to married patients.

They aren’t exactly sure why married people are more likely to survive heart attacks but it may have to do with the physical and emotional support they receive from spouses. In other words, married individuals have resources to help them cope that many single people may lack. This support may give them a better chance of recovering from a potentially life-threatening event.

“A heart attack can have both devastating physical and psychological effects — most of which are hidden from the outside world,” said Dr. Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation. “These findings suggest the support offered by a spouse can have a beneficial effect on heart attack survivors, perhaps helping to minimize the impact of a heart attack.”

Being discharged from the hospital sooner has its financial incentives, but it can also lower a patient’s risk of hospital-acquired infections such as bloodstream infection (BSI), pneumonia, and urinary tract infection.

The bottom line is doctors are wise to consider psychosocial and coping resources their heart attack patients may have available to them before discharging them, the researchers advise. “It is reasonable to suggest that these results may be due to reduced social support at home and this should be taken into account when considering the holistic care of [heart attack] patients,” researchers wrote.

The team’s next step is to examine longer-term outcomes and consider the impact being married has on other heart conditions, such as heart failure.

Hay Fever Is More Common In Fall Babies, Plus Other Strange Ways You Can Increase Allergy Risk

Allergies can range from being annoying to downright life-threatening. A recent report suggests that as much as 30 percent of the adult population and 40 percent of children worldwide experience some type of allergy, but this number is increasing. Thankfully, not everyone is equally susceptible to developing allergies, and although some risk factors, such as a having a family history of allergies, may be obvious to most, others are far more obscure.

Our bodies’ immune systems do an awesome job of protecting us from disease by targeting and destroying foreign entities, such as viruses or bacteria. However, every now and then, the immune system can mistake an otherwise harmless substance as dangerous. When this occurs, it is called an allergy, according to Allergy symptoms, which range from the annoying runny nose to life-threatening breathing difficulties, are signs the body is trying to defend itself against what it perceives as a threat.

As mentioned, the prevalence of allergies is on the rise, especially in the United States, and one study suggested that merely being born in America could be enough to up one’s chances of developing some type of allergy.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2013, was based on nearly 80,000 children from around the world, but concluded that about 35 percent of U.S.-born children had some type of allergy disorder compared to only 20 percent of foreign- born children.

The results may back the “hygiene hypothesis” which states that exposure to dirt and pathogens at a young age is critical for building a healthy, balanced immune system. Unfortunately, some believe that America’s recent shift toward being overly clean, through the use of antibacterial soaps and gels, has deprived new generations of children of this critical exposure.

“The U.S. and other first world cultures are too clean and we are very industrialized with pollution,” Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with the Allergy and Asthma Associates of Murray Hill and NYU Medical Center, told Medical Daily. “Kids aren’t exposed to playing outside with dirt and we don’t have as much exposure anymore to these good bacteria that make your immune system stronger.”

Of course, where you are born is not the only surprising factor that can help increase your asthma risk. When you are born may also play a role. Although our genes are set in stone, certain external factors, such as what we eat or whether we smoke, can affect which genes are switched on and off. These are called epigenetic changes and can in turn affect one’s health. A study released earlier this year suggested that the season you were born in can cause epigenetic changes that affect your allergy risk. The research finds those born in the fall and during winter are at increased risk.

Even habits that seem harmless (and healthy), such as brushing your teeth, can up your risk. One 2012study from Norway found that exposures to triclosan, a chemical commonly used in toothpaste as well as other cosmetic products such as deodorant, could increase likelihood of developing allergies. For the study, research tested the urine of 623 10 years olds for levels of Immunoglobin E (IgE), antibodies produced by the body in response to an allergy. Results showed that children exposed to greater amounts of triclosan had higher levels of IgE in their system and increased rates of hay fever. The researchers suggested that the reason for this was due to triclosan’s ability to change the bacterial flora in the body, a behavior that can increase your risk of allergies.

This may be why some individuals are more likely to develop allergies than others.Pixabay, Public Domain

While genetics continues to be the biggest risk factor for developing allergies, Parikh recommends steps that parents can take to try and minimize their children’s risk.

“The best thing is to not be too limited in what you expose your child to,” said Parikh. “It’s safe to introduce them to things such as peanuts and we’ve found now that early introduction reduces your chances of developing allergies in the long run. Let your child be dirty and play. There is an instinct to keep your child very clean but that may hurt them in the long run.”

Suicide Prevention: Gun Laws, Depression Meds, And Other Methods Vary In Success

Suicide is a tricky public health issue, with experts and policymakers attempting to address both the roots of the problem and the crucial moments of crisis when people try to act on their suicidal feelings. Yet it’s still the second leading cause of death among those 25 to 34, and the third among those ages 15 to 24. Worldwide, there are more than 800,000 suicides every year. It’s still nearly impossible to identify those at risk for suicide before they begin exhibiting suicidal thoughts or behaviors in the first place. But a new international review has taken a look at all the methods available to reduce suicides and determined that some really do work while others show little effectiveness.

Researchers from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology and the Expert Platform on Mental Health, Focus on Depression examined almost 1,800 studies on suicide published over ten years. The authors’ results were printed in Lancet Psychiatry.

One important finding was that restricting a person’s access to ways of committing suicide has a significant impact. Erecting barriers at popular suicide spots like high bridges and restricting the number of pills in packets are two measures that have proven effective. Places that have stricter gun licensing laws also have lower suicide rates. The report notes that if impulsive attempts at suicide could be blocked, many lives could be saved.

Addressing depression, which is an important risk factor for suicidal behavior, also proved to be effective in certain populations. Medicines like lithium and clozapine have reduced suicides among those over 75, but in children and adolescents the drugs may actually increase suicidal thoughts. Untreated depression, however, is also a risk, so the problem is highly personal and consequently complicated.


Additional methods that showed some positive effects included placing professionals trained to recognize at-risk behavior in schools, but this was only useful if integrated with other suicide prevention measures. The study also noted that following up with those who have previously attempted suicide is strongly recommended.

“We found that there is no single way of preventing suicide,” Zohar said in a press release. “However, implementation of the evidence-supported methods described in this study, including public and physician education and awareness together with appropriate legislation, has the potential to change public health strategies in suicide prevention plans. With these measures, we can significantly reduce the number of deaths due to suicide.”

The president of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, psychiatry professor Guy Goodwin, said the college was proud to have supported such a definitive review.

“As is still not sufficiently known, suicide is always among the commonest causes of death in young people,” he said. “Policies to reduce it need to be evidence-based and this review highlights where evidence does and does not exist currently.”

Sluggish Bowels May Increase Fatigue in MS

Sluggish bowels may be contributing to fatigue among multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, according to a small study presented here.

Patients who reported having severe bowel dysfunction were also very likely to report feeling fatigued, Emma Matthews, QN, of Northampton General Hospital in England, and colleagues reported in a poster at theConsortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers annual meeting.

“People with MS have a very sluggish bowel and it takes a long time to get rid of all that toxic waste; they can go for 10 days or more” without having a bowel movement, co-author Kathy Franklin, QN, also of Northampton General, told MedPage Today. “We think there’s a correlation between fatigue and having a bowel that’s full of feces.”
Although most MS patients experience bowel problems, “it is often not spoken about as it can be too embarrassing to discuss,” the investigators wrote. “It can present as constipation and/or incontinence, and is often associated with poor mobility due to closely linked nerve transmissions. So we can safely say it is a hidden symptom for a lot of people with MS.”
To address the issue, the researchers had 50 MS patients complete a questionnaire and worked with six patients in a focus group. The instruments used to gather data included the Neurogenic Bowel Dysfunction (NBD) scale; the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS) to measure fatigue; and the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) to measure sleepiness.
The researchers found that 23% of participants reported having a “severe” NBD score; of those, more than 80% had an “agree” result >75% of the time on the FSS. In addition, of the 47% of respondents who scored high (>75% of the total possible points) on the ESS, 95% also had a >75% “agree” result on the FSS.
In the focus group, participants discussed issues indirectly related to bowel management and fatigue, including quality-of-life issues like shopping, not going out, limited mobility, and lack of motivation for socializing with family and friends.

“Although [there was] no significant direct correlation in quantitative results for all three surveys, it is evident that the patients do not suffer the symptoms in isolation,” the authors wrote. To explore this relationship further, a larger study should be undertaken using a larger sample group; that study should take into account the group’s disease profile, the authors said in their poster.
Matthews said the results suggest that “Good bowel management for people with MS will hopefully help with their MS fatigue symptoms and make their quality of life better.”
Edward Fox, MD, PhD, of Round Rock, Texas, who was not involved with the study, said that the concept makes sense. “We’ve gotten the sense before that it’s not just fatigue due to MS, it’s fatigue due to a multitude of medical issues that could be going on,” he said. “This is one of many factors that can lead to patients feeling like they have poor energy, and decreased daily activities.”
In addition, the study “also ties into the discussions going on right now with the microbiome,” he continued. “The bacteria we have in our gut plays an enormous role in our immune function. Eighty percent of lymphocytes are in our GI tract, so our immune system reacts to what we eat. Those foods that lead to poor bowel habits likely are leading to greater fatigue and other symptoms as well.”
Standard treatments for sluggish bowel in MS patients include encouraging exercise and fiber consumption; if those treatments prove ineffective, physicians can then escalate to medication and, if that doesn’t work, move on to anal irrigation, Matthews said.
As a possible alternative treatment for sluggish bowel, the researchers are now involved in a multi-center, double-blind trial of abdominal massage to help encourage transit, Franklin said. “Hopefully we can decrease the amount of medication somebody’s taking and make them feel better at the same time.”

Blast TBI May Do Distinct Damage in Brain

Specific astroglial scar pattern seen in postmortem exams

Soldiers who sustain a blast traumatic brain injury (TBI) have a distinct pattern of astroglial scarring in their brains, which may account for the neurological and psychiatric symptoms that often accompany these injuries, researchers found.

In a postmortem analysis of brains from eight military personnel who survived explosive attacks — grenades, mortars, improvised explosive devices — all had astroglial scarring in the subpial glial plate, penetrating cortical blood vessels, grey-white matter junctions, and structures lining the ventricles, according to Daniel Perl, MD, of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues.

None of the comparison cases — men with impact TBI, opiate use, or healthy controls — had any astroglial scarring in those areas, they reported online in Lancet Neurology.
“We believe this is the brain attempting to repair the damage produced during the exposure to the blast,” Perl told MedPage Today. “This pattern of scarring is exactly what biophysicists who study the effects of a blast wave on a biological structure would have predicted for the brain when they looked at our data.”
Blast TBI is thought to produce different damage in the brain than impact TBI, the kind of head injury currently in the spotlight because of concussions among football players and the probable link to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Blast TBI occurs when a wave of compressed air, traveling faster than the speed of sound, propagates intense pressure and energy through the body, including the brain.
“It interacts with whatever it happens upon, including the service members who are standing in the range of the explosion,” Perl said. “Others have shown that a blast wave can penetrate the skull, and can be measured inside an intact skull. So it makes sense that it may damage the brain.”
Although soldiers with blast TBI often develop persistent neurological and psychiatric symptoms — including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), headache, sleep disturbance, and memory problems — few brain abnormalities show up on conventional neuroimaging.

To get a better handle on the pathology, given that some 300,000 U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan have sustained at least one TBI, and the U.S. military has spent more than $2 billion in the last decade on head injuries, Perl and colleagues analyzed the brains of eight military personnel exposed to explosive blasts. Three had acute blast exposure and died within a few days or months of the incident, and five had chronic blast exposure with death a few months to years afterward.
Perl and colleagues compared them with 13 control brains: five cases of chronic impact TBI, five cases of exposure to opiates, and three healthy controls.
Overall, they found the men exposed to acute or chronic blast TBI had a unique pattern of damage to the brain not seen in the controls, involving scarring in parts of the brain that are crucial for cognitive function, memory, sleep, and other important functions. These areas included the subpial glial plate, penetrating cortical blood vessels, grey-white matter junctions, and structures lining the ventricles.
The comparative civilian cases, with or without a history of impact TBI or opiate use, didn’t have any of this astroglial scarring, they found.
“The presence of reactive astrocytes in acute cases of blast TBI in the same neuroanatomical locations as the dense astroglial scar in cases of chronic blast TBI provides temporal and topographic evidence for a pathophysiological link to the blast event,” the researchers wrote.
The scarring may also be behind the neurological and psychiatric complications that can accompany blast TBI, Perl said.
He told MedPage Today that his team looked for tau protein deposits — which is suspected to play a role in the neurodegenerative complications of CTE — in all of the patients, but found only enough of the protein to make a diagnosis of CTE in one case. A second case was suggestive that a tauopathy was in the earliest stage of development.
“We speculate that we may see an increased risk of CTE down the road in those exposed to blast TBI,” he said.
The study was limited because its methodology precluded a determination on causality: it’s impossible to tell whether the brain scarring was a direct consequence of the blast, or if it resulted from some other mechanism. Some of those with blast injuries did have previous sports injuries, the researchers noted.
Perl also acknowledged that being exposed to a blast TBI is a very complex phenomenon: “There are blast winds that will not only knock you over, but propel the body over a considerable distance and produce an impact TBI if the body happens to land against a brick wall or other solid object. There is almost no pure blast TBI experience in real life.”
But that’s why they examined control brains, and they maintain that their findings are new and unique, and important to the Department of Defense given that a significant percentage of service members have been exposed to this kind of injury.
The researchers will continue to study additional cases of blast TBI exposures, and they’re looking into the magnitude of explosion that can lead to scarring, how various behavioral and neurologic areas might correlate to clinical damage, and whether there is a way to identify these kinds of changes in living service members, Perl said.
“Our study makes an important contribution in terms of understanding the nature of what a blast injury does to the brain,” he said, “but we need a great deal more work to better understand it.”
In an accompanying commentary, William Stewart, MD, of the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and Douglas Smith, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, wrote that this “short case series almost doubles the number of cases in the scientific literature describing the human neuropathology of blast TBI.”
“However, far from an answer to the question of what is blast traumatic brain injury, the work instead exposes the remarkable absence of robust human neuropathology studies in this field,” they wrote. “We must remain cautious in interpreting the significance of any single pathology as unique to blast-associated TBI based on a small and heterogeneous case series and little clinical information, and few control comparisons.”