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Boost Your Memory and Learning Capacity with Vitamin A

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Nutritionists have long believed that vitamin A plays a vital role in memory and learning. In fact, studies have shown that mice lacking key molecules needed to use vitamin A flunk spatial ability and memory tests. Vitamin-A deficiency during pregnancy has also been associated with memory problems in humans.

Nutritional scientists from CNR have recently discovered the key mechanism of the vitamin’s brain-boosting powers. Na Chen, a graduate student in Professor Joe Napoli’s laboratory, treated cells from the brain’s memory center (the hippocampus) with retinoic acid. This molecular signal, also known as RA, is fashioned from vitamin A and “turns on” specialized receptors (known as RAR) found on neurons. Chen and Napoli found that this interaction initiates the translation of molecular signals from messenger RNA, causing the neurons to explode with new dendrites—spiny branches that receive information from other nerve cells.

If the neurochemistry is over your head, just remember this: to grow new branches on your brain cells, seek out vitamin A from natural sources of beta-carotene: orange-colored foods such as apricots, carrots, papayas, cantaloupes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and mangoes.

-Cyril Manning


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