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Thursday, October 23, 2014


Pregnenolone is the first hormone in the pathway that generates a host of key neurohormones in the brain that are known to affect nerve cell growth and to modulate various moods.
The conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone constitutes the first of many steps in the synthesis of some of the body’s key hormones, including dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, and cortisol.
Nicknamed “the mother hormone,” pregnenolone is a vital building block, being the very first (and arguably the most versatile) hormone in a cascade of molecular events.
Like newly cut lumber, which can be processed into everything from building materials to facial tissue, pregnenolone’s final products fill myriad essential roles in the body, from stimulating memory via excitatory pathways to easing anxiety through inhibitory mechanisms.
Pregnenolone therefore has a dominant effect in a wide range of nervous system functions.
Despite the apparent complexity of brain cells, or neurons, we can simplify matters considerably by thinking about their activities as either being stimulated or suppressed. Not surprisingly, most memory formation occurs as the result of stimulation of nerve cells. Stimulation generally results in the production of nerve branches known as dendrites, which connect to additional neurons, making the entire “switchboard” larger and more complex.
These structures are formed by activating special “switches” in the brain. While there are a variety of such excitatory switches, the category called NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) channels (or receptors) comprises the most important group. These channels must be activated for learning and memory to occur.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting! The typical excitatory brain chemical that activates those memory-enhancing NMDA receptors is the amino acid glutamate, which is present throughout the brain. And while glutamate is critical for normal learning, too much excitation by glutamate over time can damage neurons—in fact, overstimulation, or excitotoxicity, by glutamate is thought to be one of the underlying factors in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
What makes pregnenolone so important in this context is that it seems to trigger the NMDA channels through a mechanism that is independent of glutamatewhich in turn may account for the observed neuroprotective effects of pregnenolone on brain cells
The bottom line of all this intricate science is that pregnenolone may play a pivotal role both in laying down memories in the first place, and then preventing their loss by directly protecting the nerve networks that store them! These complementary and versatile actions of pregnenolone are sending shock waves of interest through the scientific community because of the enormous implications for treating all sorts of age-related disorders of memory
This is borne out in research that has demonstrated pregnenolone’s ability to reduce the risk of dementia and improve memory, while also alleviating anxiety and fighting depression.