Zinc supplements are sold routinely for everything from enhancing wound healing, to dealing with white spots on fingernails, to relieving the common cold. It has also been suggested that zinc may play a role in coping with conditions like anxiety and depression and now a new piece of research has supported that this multi-faceted mineral is essential for proper brain function.
Almost half a century ago it was discovered that zinc is highly concentrated in compartments contained in nerve cells called â€œvesiclesâ€. These vesicles are effectively packets that contain the neurotransmitters that are released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells. So the vesicles are essential for cell to cell communication within your brain. If vesicles donâ€™t function properly then nerves cannot properly talk to each other and that can have a range of flow on effects.
Zincâ€™s presence in the vesicles suggests that it plays a role in communication between nerve cells but that has not been proven; until now.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a molecule that binds to zinc in a highly effective way. In combination with researchers from Duke University they found that removing zinc from the brains of mice using this molecule led to reduced communication between brain cells. Interestingly, the highest concentration of zinc is in the hippocampus where learning and memory take place and where disrupted communication between nerves may lead to epilepsy.
The implication is that zinc may not only support memory but it might be involved in epilepsy treatment.