Moderate UV Exposure Enhances Learning and Memory by Promoting a Novel Glutamate Biosynthetic Pathway in the Brain

Journal: Cell

Published: 2018-05-17

DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.04.014

Affiliations: 8

Authors: 21

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Research Highlight

Ray of sunshine helps boost brain power

© akindo/Getty

© akindo/Getty

The sun’s ultraviolet radiation is a major cause of skin cancer. But in small doses, ultraviolet light can trigger metabolic processes that enhance memory and learning, according to a study led by researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China.

The researchers found that moderate ultraviolet exposure in mice elevated levels of a molecule called urocanic acid in the brain, where it is not usually found.

This molecule is an intermediate in the conversion of histidine, an amino acid, to glutamate, a neurotransmitter that promotes electrical signalling in the brain. The ultraviolet-triggered jolt of urocanic acid thus set off a biochemical cascade that increased the release of glutamate in neuronal synapses and improved motor learning and long-term memory in the mice.

If the findings hold true in humans, they could offer a way to improve cognitive function in those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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  1. Cell 173, 1716–1727 (2018). doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.04.014
Institutions Share
University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), China 0.51
Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale (HFNL), China 0.27
Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ), CAS, China 0.10
High Magnetic Field Laboratory (HMFL), HIPS CAS, China 0.07
CAS Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology (CEBSIT), China 0.05