June 11, 2017 at 6:23 am #1567
Do Our Bones Influence Our Minds?
By Amanda Schaffer
November 1, 2013
In the mid-nineteen-nineties, a young French geneticist and physician named Gerard Karsenty became curious about a mysterious protein, called osteocalcin, that is found at high concentrations in the skeleton. He worked with mice that had been engineered to lack the substance, expecting to find problems with their bones. But their skeletons appeared essentially normal, he says, a result that left him “deeply depressed.”
The mice did have issues, though. Their abdomens were fatty, they had trouble breeding, and they were “stupid,” meaning “they never rebelled or tried to bite or escape,” said Karsenty, now fifty-nine years old and the chair of the department of genetics and development at Columbia University Medical Center. He has studied osteocalcin for almost two decades. While its role within the skeleton remains unknown, he has shown that the substance has wide-ranging effects on mice’s fat stores, livers, muscles, pancreases, testes, and even, as new evidence suggests, their brains. It turns out that osteocalcin is a messenger, sent by bone to regulate crucial processes all over the body.
The finding represents new ground in how researchers view the skeleton: not only do bones provide structural support and serve as a repository for calcium and phosphate, they issue commands to far-flung cells. In mice at least, they talk directly to the brain. “This is a biggie,” said Eric Kandel, the neuroscientist and Nobel Laureate. “Who thinks of the bone as being an endocrine organ? You think of the adrenal gland, you think of the pituitary, you don’t think of bone.”
But Karsenty has long believed that our skeletons do a lot more than just give our bodies their shape. In 2007, he suggested that bones play a crucial role in regulating blood sugar: mice engineered to lack osteocalcin were essentially diabetic; they were less sensitive to insulin, and produced less of it. When he provided osteocalcin, however, their insulin sensitivity and blood sugar normalized. When Karsenty first presented these findings at a conference, endocrine experts were “overwhelmed by the potential implications,” as one of them told me at the time.
Similarly, Karsenty has raised provocative questions about the skeleton’s role in fertility. In 2011, he showed that bones play a crucial role in male reproduction: mice that did not produce osteocalcin had abnormally low levels of testosterone and were sterile. Mice that produced high levels, on the other hand, had more testosterone and bred more frequently. (The mechanism did not appear to be relevant to females.)
The most recent finding concerns the skeleton and the brain. In a paper published in late September in the journal Cell, Karsenty showed that bone plays a direct role in memory and mood. Mice whose skeletons did not produce osteocalcin as a result of genetic manipulation were anxious, depressed, and almost completely unable to master a test of spatial memory. When Karsenty infused them with the missing hormone, however, their moods improved and their performance on the memory test became nearly normal. He also found that, in pregnant mice, osteocalcin from the mother’s bones crossed the placenta and helped shape the development of the fetus’s brain. In other words, bones talk to neurons even before birth.
What might this chatter mean for human health? As we age, our bone mass decreases. Memory loss, anxiety, and depression also become more common. These may be separate, unfortunate facts about getting old, but they could also be related. “If you ask physicians the best things to do to prevent age-related memory loss, they’ll say exercise,” Kandel points out. Does exercise help partly because it works to maintain bones, which make osteocalcin, which in turn helps preserve memory and mood? (Karsenty speculates that a higher bone mass means a greater capacity for osteocalcin production, though this has yet to be established.) Even more fantastically: Would it ever be possible to protect memory or treat age-related cognitive decline with a skeletal hormone? These are the kinds of questions that can spur either false hopes or imaginative leaps.
Karsenty’s vision of the skeleton as central to energy usage, reproduction, and memory has persuasive evidence in mice. If one of these studies “had come in isolation, I think I would have more skepticism toward it,” Sundeep Khosla, of the Mayo Clinic, said. But they’re “part of a whole series showing that bone helps regulate other tissues, and the findings in mice are well done and compelling.” (Much of the earlier work has also been corroborated by other labs, also using mouse models.)
The question has always been the extent to which these results translate to people. “I don’t know of any hormone that functions in mice but not to some extent in humans,” Thomas Clemens, of Johns Hopkins, told me in 2011. Still, osteocalcin is clearly not the only substance that regulates blood sugar or male fertility or cognition, and its relative importance may be different in people. In mice, no other substance can compensate for a lack of osteocalcin when it comes to these functions, as Karsenty’s work shows. Is the same true in humans?
One tantalizing hint comes from men who are unable to respond to the hormone as a result of a genetic mutation. Karsenty has identified two such men, and they are both infertile and unable to regulate sugar normally—what the mouse models would predict. The real test, however, would be a clinical trial in which researchers identified patients with a genetic defect related to osteocalcin—or patients with low levels of osteocalcin, perhaps as a result of declining bone mass—and treated them with the hormone to see whether it reversed low fertility, poor memory, anxiety, or depression.
Karsenty also believes that we know enough now to recognize that the body is far more networked and interconnected than most people think. “No organ is an island,” he likes to say. And if X talks to Y, then Y should talk back to X. This insistence on reciprocity has animated much of his career, with the skeleton often playing a surprise role: insulin acts on bone, and bone should help regulate insulin. Testosterone has an influence on bone mass, and the skeleton should act on the testes. And just as the brain talks to the skeleton, he says, “I always knew that bone should help regulate the brain. I just didn’t know how.”
Photograph: Marcel van den Bergh/Hollandse Hoogte/Redux
Amanda Schaffer is a frequent contributor to newyorker.comJune 13, 2017 at 7:08 pm #1571
In Buddhism, the term anattā (Pali) or anātman (Sanskrit) refers to the doctrine of “non-self”, that there is no unchanging, permanent self, soul or essence in living beings.
The watchmaker analogy or watchmaker argument is a teleological argument which states, by way of an analogy, that a design implies a designer. The analogy has played a prominent role in natural theology and the “argument from design,” where it was used to support arguments for the existence of God and for the intelligent design of the universe, in both Christianity and Deism. Sir Isaac Newton, among other leaders in the scientific revolution, including René Descartes, upheld “that the physical laws he had uncovered revealed the mechanical perfection of the workings of the universe to be akin to a watchmaker, wherein the watchmaker is God.”
Mind–body dualism, or mind–body duality, is a view in the philosophy of mind that mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical, or that the mind and body are distinct and separable. Thus, it encompasses a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, and between subject and object, and is contrasted with other positions, such as physicalism and enactivism, in the mind–body problem.
Spinoza’s magnum opus, Ethics, was published posthumously in 1677. The work opposed René Descartes’ philosophy on mind–body dualism, and earned Spinoza recognition as one of Western philosophy’s most important thinkers. In the Ethics, “Spinoza wrote the last indisputable Latin masterpiece, and one in which the refined conceptions of medieval philosophy are finally turned against themselves and destroyed entirely.” Hegel said, “You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all.”June 13, 2017 at 11:54 pm #1572
Sorry, but this posting is not meant to be too far off-topic.
What did Albert Fish and Anneliese Michel have in common?
Ps. Sorry for my broken English.June 14, 2017 at 2:34 am #1574
Wow, so mindblowing article. Connecting the dots between qi gong and science. And diabetes, insulin resistance and hormones are such hot topics today…June 14, 2017 at 5:51 pm #1577
Why do we need “science” to confirm these things.
If we cannot feel things ourselves and do not act on what we feel … then we are barely alive.
The countless trillion organisms on this planet have been busy living for billions of years without scientists to “help” them.
They don’t need help.
In the Tao Te Ching it says that men talk about “good and evil” … but am I really supposed to feel what they feel ?
If you don’t feel life yourself then are you alive ?June 19, 2017 at 8:03 pm #1589June 20, 2017 at 7:03 am #1590
…such things are meaningless to those who exist as part of the matrix of subconscious mechanical functioning, like the animals…the countless trillion organisms on this planet have been busy living for billions of years without scientists to “help” them…
Marcos Rodriguez Pantoja: Did this man live with wolves?July 17, 2017 at 6:31 am #1646
…do our bones influence our minds?
Although this is only very short advertisement, it’s interesting how certain ninja practices/skills have been adressed; but I don’t know if this is funny.
Moving forcedly slowly, running, climbing, jumping and still being observant.
Do our bones influence our minds?
Yes I think and it’s also good for physical fitness.
Ps. Sorry for my broken English.July 18, 2017 at 8:52 pm #1650
…why do we need “science” to confirm these things…the countless trillion organisms on this planet have been busy living for billions of years without scientists to “help” them…
Sorry, but would this (like the Vietnamese Tarzan) be also the right direction for those Taoists who really like to embrace simplicity?
The Baopuzi (Chinese: 抱朴子; pinyin: Bàopǔzǐ; Wade–Giles: Pao-p’u-tzu; literally: “[Book of the] Master Who Embraces Simplicity”), written by the Jin dynasty scholar Ge Hong 葛洪 (283-343), is divided into esoteric Neipian 內篇 “Inner Chapters” and exoteric Waipian 外篇 “Outer Chapters”. The Daoist Inner Chapters discuss topics such as techniques for xian 仙 “immortality; transcendence”, Chinese alchemy, elixirs, and demonology. The Confucianist Outer Chapters discuss Chinese literature, Legalism, politics, and society.July 19, 2017 at 6:27 am #1651
No, not simplicity.
Life is already profoundly intelligent and learning, but humans are caught in the virtual reality of their mind and disconnected from life itself.
Inside their prison they make a game of science searching for intelligence.
But they only feel without intelligence because they are lost in their VR world and do not comprehend what is happening.
It for this reason that ‘science’ has not saved us, because it is a fake game played by confused monkeys lost in their mind.
Science has been going on for thousands of years …. has it worked yet ?
Why don’t humans give up on the things that don’t work ?
Well the level of addiction to the false mind is quite extreme.
In the human cultures on the planet almost nobody knows how to leave.
They are lost and will simply die here in ignorance.July 19, 2017 at 6:40 am #1652
Ps. Contents of the earlier message’s video are:
1) Going back to jungle (0:28)
2) The jungle boy (3:02)
3) Hunting and eating a rat (5:57)
4) His personality (8:54)
5) Bat snack (11:18)
6) Looking at his face in the water (13:48)
7) His tools (15:28)
8) Returning back to the village (17:04)July 24, 2017 at 7:38 am #1692
…humans are caught in the virtual reality of their mind and disconnected from life itself…July 25, 2017 at 7:45 pm #1693
Existence will not get in your way if you perish here.
Your life will be ablated from existence.
It seems to be the fate of most life forms, and most humans.
We are not that much different to any monkey, always chattering.
Those 3 monkeys up there, Neil degrasse Tyson, and so on ….
Were you impressed by them ?
They barely exist, they are just more copies of the collective unconscious anthill, they use the same words, the same sentences, the same logic, the same facial expressions, all copied from the collective.
They seem to live, but …. just like the animals, they have no idea that they live.
They use big words don’t they.
And whilst they excite you, the sands of your time run out.
Few human comprehend anything at all about life, and that goes double for spiritual people, all lost.
For existence it’s no big deal, how many billions of forms perish each day.
They served their purpose.
If you are another, nobody notices.
Only a few make it.
The humans who perish, right up to their last breath they are full of stories and ideas, they really never had any idea they lived.
It is quite a shocking place.
July 27, 2017 at 1:16 pm #1695
…and whilst they excite you…
Not at all.
It’s just the opposite.
But it’s quite difficult to have conditions where one only practices yoga: no ordinary work or studying for example.
…if you are another, nobody notices…
Yes I also think that it’s important to disappear and become inaccessible.
Sorry, for my broke English.
HOWDYJuly 27, 2017 at 2:12 pm #1697
Mankind on it’s currently trajectory will be extinct in 50 years. The reason is quite simple, that his technology always goes wrong and creates disasters. The point of extinction is simply the point at which the technology is big enough that a mistake kills everyone.
Or in about 50 years, with synthetic biology or nanotechnology, both those things when they go wrong will multiply, apparently it would take 4 days for a nanotech malfunction to destroy the entire planet … well more or less.
And that’s it.
What possible hope could there be ?
Does anyone even look like considering a change of trajectory ?
No, not really, it’s all the same, same as thousands of years ago …. I just listened to Julius Caesars books from 2000 years ago, identical mindset as today.
Of course there is a way out …. but most people are unable to even consider that.
Carl Sagan is a beautiful guy, but …. that’s the trajedy of the Earth, we seem simply not to be conscious enough to make it.
There is far too much indulgence in our weaknesses, even in (or especially in) spirituality.
But …. wherever and whenever you are born, there you are.
Now make the best of it without excuses.
Don’t dream, just build your way out without delay.
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