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Question Your World: What Makes Our Brain Work At Its Best?

Our brain is what makes us what we are. Nearly all aspects of our lives are a product of the human brain, so keeping it in optimal functional condition is very important. We're still piecing together the puzzle of how the brain works, so any new discovery goes a long way. So, what makes our brain work at its best? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to find out.

Too little or too much of something can have negative consequences. For example, too little food and you're starving, while too much food means you pack on extra calories and produce health risks. Just the right amount, though, keeps us healthy and strong. The same concept applies to a lot of other things: sleep, water, 21st birthday parties, and so on. Well, recently scientists observed that this notion applies to the human brain as well.

The KLOTHO gene is the genetic variable that was observed to have an impact on brain function. Brain function being the ability to think, retain memory, learn, and so on. In a recent study it was observed that subjects with no KLOTHO genes in their genetic configuration seemed to have a noticeable decline in cognitive efficiency as time passes. Interestingly, subjects with 2 KLOTHO genes also had a similar decline. Individuals with just one of these genes though seemed to score much better on tests across the board. Brain function did decline over age for all subjects, but those with 1 KLOTHO still fared better and had a better longevity also.

A better understanding of this gene could open the doors to better dealing with Alzheimer's patients and people with other mental diseases relating to brain function. Now, keep in mind we're born with our genetic configuration. We can't just fly a KLOTHO in or out of a system that has too little or too many of this gene. However, that statement is being made right now when this is not possible. On a related note, scientists have recently started to play around with the concept of creating artificial building blocks of genes. When enough of the right pieces of the puzzle come together we can start to speculate what some possibilities may be in the future. For example, scientists now have both an understanding of the importance of having just 1 KLOTHO gene and are working on being able to build their own genes. This seems like a world rooted in science fiction, but these are indeed science facts. Who knows, perhaps future generations will be able to engineer the nucleic bases needed to make our genetic composition and then make a KLOTHO-like gene readily available to keep our unique cerebral powerhouse working in tip-top conduction. Can you imagine that world? An entire world full of intelligent people. If there's anything that science has taught us, it's that there is a first time for everything!

Article by: Prabir Mehta, Science Museum of Virginia

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