Lecture on “New Frontiers in Brain Research" by Prof. Pierre Magistretti

Fun facts: The brain accounts for only 2% of the entire body mass but 20% of its energy consumption and contains 600km of blood vessels (capillaries). And did you know that while you are dreaming, your brain is as active or even more than when you are awake? Scientists call that the “paradoxical sleep”.

Last night, Professor Magistretti, eminent Professor of neuroscience at EPFL and KAUST and one of the principal investigators in the Human Brain Project, honored us with a lecture on Brain Research at the residence of the Embassy. Professor Magistretti shared his comprehensive knowledge of neuroscience with an audience from different backgrounds.

The conference focused on what the next frontiers in brain research would be. The neuroscientific world mainly focused their research on the 100 billion neurons in our brain but they are not the only stars in our head. The astrocytes, a star-shaped cell, outnumber them by 5 times. In recent years, thanks to new technology, it became clear that this cell plays a central role in brain energy metabolism. Astrocytes are sort of gatekeepers for glucose entry into the brain. They sense neuronal activity and increase the delivery of glucose where and when neurons are active. These exchanges of energy showed the first implication of the astrocytes in the memory. Lactate produced by the astrocytes from the glucose accelerates the memorization process. “In vivo, when the transfer of lactate from astrocytes to neurons is blocked, we found that the memorization process was also blocked,” explains EPFL professor Pierre Magistretti. Could we take lactate supplements to develop encyclopedic memory or reduce the effect of Alzheimer or Parkinson ? Magistretti’s lab has just received a grant to study the effects of artificial lactate supplementation.