You’re sitting at your computer, staring at the words on the screen, but no matter how many times your eyes scan the paragraph you can’t seem to take in anything you’re reading.
This familiar picture has been experienced by nearly everybody at some point in their lives, some more than others. We refer to this experience as “brain fog” as it feels exactly like a thick fog has clouded the mind, preventing clarity of thought and making it hard for us to concentrate.
What Causes Brain Fog?
In order to discuss the benefits of choline for this condition, we need to first understand what causes brain fog and where it comes from.
Our brains are full of electrical and neurochemical activity. They need to be. This activity works together on a grand scale to provide all of our thoughts and ideas, and is responsible for every experience we feel as human beings.
When this electrical and neurochemical activity slows down for any reason, we feel brain fog. This can happen when we’re tired from sleep deprivation, overwork, low on blood glucose from not eating, or, more commonly, low concentrations of the regulatory neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine.
What Is Acetylcholine?
Acetylcholine is one of the key neurotransmitters our brains rely on to send messages throughout the central nervous system. This neurotransmitter is heavily involved in the process of learning and memory because it’s necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses to different areas of the brain. This includes both the creation of new memories and the retrieval of old memories.
Without enough acetylcholine, nerve cells struggle to send their message where it needs to go. The message may be sent, but somewhere along the chain if acetylcholine is too low, the message hits a wall and never reaches the end point. This means that information is lost, and can make us feel dull as a result.
What is Choline?
One of the key elements in the production of acetylcholine is a molecule known as choline. This molecule is a vitamin-like substance that’s combined with other molecules in the body (an acetyl group) to produce this important neurotransmitter.
Everytime an acetylcholine molecule is used, it must be broken down. This makes it crucial that our bodies have enough choline to produce new acetylcholine molecules to relay messages within the brain when we need it.
These effects are similar to Alzheimer’s disease (though on a smaller scale). With this disease, acetylcholine levels drop far below normal, resulting in confusion, memory loss, brain fog, and emotional changes. This has provided a model for testing various substances on conditions revolving around lowered acetylcholine levels including the symptoms of brain fog and poor concentration.
In a recent clinical trial investigating the effects of choline on the lowered cognitive abilities of patients with Alzheimer’s, the results showed a significant improvement in the condition based on a number of cognitive assessment scales .
Taking Choline Supplements
There are numerous substances with choline in them available on the market, however, the most popular are Alpha-GPC and CDP-Choline. These molecules are made up of a choline molecule bound to another molecule. This bound nature of these substances is important due to the fact that choline itself is water soluble. The blood brain barrier is especially defensive against water soluble substances in order to keep metabolites within the blood outside of the sensitive cells in the central nervous system.
The bound nature of the choline found in both Alpha-GPC and CDP-Choline allow these molecules to pass intact through the blood brain barrier to deliver the choline where it is needed, the brain.
Once in the brain our bodies can use the choline to produce as much acetylcholine as we need, thus reducing or removing altogether the sensation of brain fog caused by low levels of this important neurotransmitter.
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Lopez, C. M., Govoni, S., Battaini, F., Bergamaschi, S., Longoni, A., Giaroni, C., & Trabucchi, M. (1991). Effect of a new cognition enhancer, alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, on scopolamine-induced amnesia and brain acetylcholine. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 39(4), 835-840.