A Mineral That Helps You Remember

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In an intriguing new health breakthrough, scientists have found that zinc plays a special role in our brains. The mineral — and popular natural supplement — seems to help brain cells communicate. This may mean it helps the brain form memories, and that it could even control epileptic seizures.

U.S. researchers watched zinc in action as it regulated communication between neurons in the hippocampus. This is the brain region where learning and memory processes occur, and where disrupted communication contributes to epilepsy.

They found that the mineral helps make communication efficient between two vital areas of nerve cells. While it may not be earth-shattering to you, it has been a controversy for some time in the field of science.

Zinc supplements are commonly sold over the counter to treat several different brain disorders, including depression. It isn’t clear whether these supplements modify zinc content in the brain, or modify the efficiency of communication between these nerve cells.

Long ago, we found high levels of zinc in “vesicles” — special compartments of nerve cells, which package the transmitters that enable nerve cells to communicate. The highest levels of brain zinc were found among the neurons of the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory.

The new study found that removing zinc from the vesicles of mice also halted. Interestingly, nerve cells in which the high concentrations of zinc reside are critical for a particular type of memory formation. As well, they found that controlling zinc’s regulation of communication between nerve cells helps form memories and prevent or lessen seizures.

Zinc has long been known as one of the most powerful minerals in our bodies. It has a wide reach and a litany of important roles. It seems we are still attempting to understand this wonder nutrient. Researchers said to be cautious when taking zinc supplements and not to pop extra capsules to boost your memory.