This article ties together two passions of mine: the skeleton and the brain. A recent article by Amanda Schaffer, Do Our Bones Influence Our Minds, was the article that piqued my curiosity.
If I were to ask the majority of people I know the purpose of bones in the body, I think I have a pretty good sense of what they might say. I would expect to hear that it’s a support system for the body like a scaffold, or that it’s a reservoir for calcium, or perhaps if the person is a chiropractic patient they would hopefully respond that at least in the spine it protects the spinal cord and nerves. Each of them would be correct. I would then also have to add that it stores many more minerals than just calcium, that bones are also a manufacturing plant for red blood cells in the marrow where fat is also stored and that they can remove and protect us by storing heavy metals. There are other functions as well but new research performed in mice is pointing to something radically more.
What if I told you that scientists are now exploring the connection between a protein made and released by your bones may play a role in synapse xt depression, diabetes, fertility and memory? This creates a whole new level of appreciation for what has been considered a pseudo-inert part of the body.
A researcher named Gerard Karsenty has been studying a protein called osteocalcin in mice for a long time. While mice might seem a very remote “relative” evolutionarily, science shows remarkable similarities in genetics and physiology to humans. So what shows up in mice studies commonly are found in people. He noticed that mice deficient in this protein, commonly were diabetic, low in testosterone and often sterile, and recently discovered to be “were anxious, depressed, and almost completely unable to master a test of spatial memory.” He also found that it could pass across a mother mouse’s placenta and influence the brain of the developing fetus.
OK, so what? Here are the 2 main points. First, the skeleton is interconnected to many more systems of the body than anyone ever thought. Cool. Secondly, we know that one of the most commonly prescribed effective activities to slow cognitive decline and age related memory loss, is exercise. We also know that as we age, our bones break down, and perhaps a decreasing bone mass may lead to decreased production of osteocalcin that may lead to age related brain decline. We don’t know yet, but the puzzle may just be leading in that direction.
What this is telling us is, that every part of the body is far more interconnected to everything else than we ever knew. As a chiropractor this points to me to continue my work with keeping peoples spines and bones healthy, a good diet, upright posture, supporting patients in monitoring healthy bone density, all the things I have preached, though little did I know how interlinked their healthy spines and bones overall were for having a healthy brain and mind.