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Biochem Pharmacol. 2014 Apr 15;88(4):584-93. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2013.11.010. Epub 2013 Dec 4.

Mitochondrial respiration as a target for neuroprotection and cognitive enhancement.

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Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA; Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA; Institute for Neuroscience, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA. Electronic address:
Institute for Neuroscience, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.
Department of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75235, USA.


This paper focuses on brain mitochondrial respiration as a therapeutic target for neuroprotection and cognitive enhancement. We propose that improving brain mitochondrial respiration is an important future direction in research and treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other conditions associated with cognitive impairment and neurodegeneration. The central thesis is that supporting and improving brain mitochondrial respiration constitutes a promising neurotherapeutic principle, with potential applications in AD as well as in a wide variety of neuropsychological conditions. We propose three different interventional approaches to improve brain mitochondrial respiration based on (a) pharmacology, (b) photobiomodulation and (c) nutrition interventions, and provide detailed examples for each type of intervention. First, low-dose USP methylene blue is described as a pharmacological intervention that can successfully increase mitochondrial respiration and result in memory enhancement and neuroprotection. Second, transcranial low-level light/laser therapy with near-infrared light is used to illustrate a photobiomodulation intervention with similar neurometabolic mechanisms of action as low-dose methylene blue. Finally, a nutrition intervention to improve mitochondrial respiration is proposed by increasing ketone bodies in the diet. The evidence discussed for each intervention supports a fundamental neurotherapeutic strategy based on improving oxidative energy metabolism while at the same time reducing the pro-oxidant tendencies of the nervous system. Targeting brain mitochondrial respiration with these three types of interventions is proposed as part of a holistic neurotherapeutic approach to improve brain energy metabolism and antioxidant defenses. This strategy represents a promising new bioenergetics direction for treatment of AD and other neuropsychological disorders featuring cognitive impairment and neurodegeneration.


Alzheimer's disease; Brain energy metabolism; Ketogenesis; Low-level light/laser therapy; Methylene blue; Mild cognitive impairment

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