Are sulforaphane supplements better than microwaved broccoli sprouts?

Armando asked a good question in Upgrade your brain’s switchboard with broccoli sprouts:

“Is there any way to consume sulphorafane in a supplement form? Rather than have to jump so many hops to consume it from broccoli.”

That blog post referenced a 2017 study, whose sulforaphane amount was:

“100 µmol [17.3 mg] sulforaphane as standardized broccoli sprout extract in the form of 2 gel capsules.”

One answer in A pair of broccoli sprout studies was No:

  • “Plasma and urinary levels of total SFN [sulforaphane] metabolites were ~3–5 times higher in sprout consumers compared to BSE [broccoli sprout extract] consumers.
  • In sprout consumers, plasma concentrations were 2.4-fold higher after consuming the second dose than after the first dose.
  • Calculated SFN bioavailability from broccoli sprouts exceeded 100%.”

That study was from 2015, though. Are better products than broccoli sprout extracts available now?


Image from the US Library of Congress

During Week 5 of Changing an inflammatory phenotype with broccoli sprouts, back in May when I still believed impossible things like we would:

I contacted a distributor of a dried broccoli sprout powder for evidence of their claim:

“Independent assays confirm that EnduraCELL yields more Sulforaphane per gram and per dose than any other broccoli sprout ingredient available! These assays showed that EnduraCell yields around 3.5 times more SULFORAPHANE than the next highest broccoli sprout product.”

I’ve asked three times for the lab assays. They declined each time to provide the data. In correspondence the company founder said:

“Each 700 mg capsules yields around 15mg sulforaphane.”

The company founder has written several reviews, one of which is entitled Sulforaphane and Other Nutrigenomic Nrf2 Activators: Can the Clinician’s Expectation Be Matched by the Reality? In Section 6.5 Sulforaphane it stated:

“By calculation, MYR [myrosinase]-active whole broccoli sprout supplement yielding 1% SFN could deliver 10 mg SFN per gram of powder, corresponding to ~12 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts (dried powder retains ~8% moisture).

The 2017 study’s dosage of “100 µmol [17.3 mg] sulforaphane as standardized broccoli sprout extract” weighed a gram or less, for a 1.73% sulforaphane yield. A broccoli sprout powder may have a 15 mg / 700 mg = 2.14% sulforaphane yield.

Using calculations from Estimating daily consumption of broccoli sprout compounds and Our model clinical trial for Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts, I eat 131 grams of 3-day-old broccoli sprouts daily. That would be 131 g / 12 = 10.9 grams of a broccoli sprout powder.

The equivalent sulforaphane dosage would be 10.9 g x 21.4 mg per gram = 233.3 mg! That’s obviously too high. What isn’t right?

Subsequent investigation of a distributor’s site found this table:

autism sprout powder

The study referenced for equivalence was Sulforaphane treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Calculations:

  • The 100 µmol sulforaphane amount for 90 kg participants weighed 17.73 mg per https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/sulforaphane.
  • The equivalent broccoli sprout powder sulforaphane yield is 0.01773 / 3.6 g = 0.4925%. That’s 5 mg of sulforaphane per gram of broccoli sprout powder.
  • 0.4925% / 2.14 % = 0.23. Decrementing the above sulforaphane weight gives 233.3 mg x .23 = 54 mg.

The answer to my question What isn’t right? I relied on private correspondence rather than what a vendor publicly disclosed.


I’m not particularly concerned about analytical uncertainties for myself. Whatever the numbers are, microwaving techniques for fresh broccoli sprouts increase them.

I immerse 3-day-old broccoli sprouts in 100 ml distilled water, then microwave them on 1000W full power for 35 seconds to achieve up to but not exceeding 60°C (140°F) per Microwave broccoli to increase sulforaphane levels. Worst-case estimates are 52 mg sulforaphane with microwaving.


My answer to Armando’s question would be No for sulforaphane supplements. I’d consider a whole broccoli sprout powder after lab assays were personally verified.

Day 70 results from Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts

Here are my Day 70 measurements* to follow up Our model clinical trial for Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts, which had these findings:


Keep in mind that I’m not in the population represented by the clinical trial sample:

  1. My chronological age is above their inclusion range;
  2. My BMI is below their inclusion range; and
  3. I take supplements and meet other exclusion criteria.

I also didn’t take Day 0 measurements.

June 2019 BMI: 24.8

June 2020 BMI: 22.4

2020 IL-6: 1.0 pg / ml. See Part 2 of Rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane for comparisons.

2020 C-reactive protein: < 1 mg / l.

2019 and 2020 No biological age measurements. Why aren’t epigenetic clocks standard and affordable?


I’ve made four lifestyle “interventions” since last summer:

  1. In July 2019 I started to reduce my consumption of advanced glycation end products after reading Dr. Vlassara’s AGE-Less Diet: How a Chemical in the Foods We Eat Promotes Disease, Obesity, and Aging and the Steps We Can Take to Stop It.
  2. In September I started non-prescription daily treatments of Vitamin D, zinc, and DHEA per clinical trial Reversal of aging and immunosenescent trends.
  3. Also in September, I started non-prescription intermittent quercetin treatments of Preliminary findings from a senolytics clinical trial.
  4. I started eating broccoli sprouts every day eleven weeks ago.

1. Broccoli sprouts oppose effects of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) provided examples of Items 1 and 4 interactions.

2. Two examples of Item 2 treatment interactions with Item 4 are in Reversal of aging and immunosenescent trends with sulforaphane:

  • “The effects of the combined treatment with BSE [broccoli sprout extract] and zinc were always greater than those of single treatments.”
  • “Vitamin D administration decreased tumor incidence and size, and the co-administration with SFN [sulforaphane] magnified the effects. The addition of SFN decreased the activity of histone deacetylase and increased autophagy.”

3. How broccoli sprout compounds may complement three supplements I take was in a 2020 review Central and Peripheral Metabolic Defects Contribute to the Pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease: Targeting Mitochondria for Diagnosis and Prevention:

“The nutrients benefit mitochondria in four ways, by:

  • Ameliorating oxidative stress, for example, lipoic acid;
  • Activating phase II enzymes that improve antioxidant defenses, for example, sulforaphane;
  • Enhancing mitochondrial remodeling, for example, acetyl-l-carnitine; and
  • Protecting mitochondrial enzymes and/or stimulating mitochondrial enzyme activities, for example, enzyme cofactors, such as B vitamins and coenzyme Q10 .

In addition to using mitochondrial nutrients individually, the combined use of mitochondrial nutrients may provide a better strategy for mitochondrial protection.”

The review provided a boatload of mitochondrial multifactorial analyses for Alzheimer’s. But these analyses didn’t include effective mitochondrial treatments of ultimate aging causes. I didn’t see evidence of why, after fifteen years of treating mitochondrial effects with supplements, treating one more effect could account for my Week 9 vastly different experiences.


I nod to An environmental signaling paradigm of aging explanations. Its Section 10 reviewed IL-6, C-reactive protein, senescence, and NF-κB in terms of feedback loops, beginning with:

“It is clear that the increasing number of senescent cells depends on the post-adult developmental stage rather than chronological age. The coincidence that these processes result in particular forms of impairment in old age does not seem to be random as it is present in all mammals, and may be causative of many aspects of aging.”

A derived hypothesis: After sufficient strength and duration, broccoli sprout compounds changed my signaling environment, with appreciable effects beginning in Week 9.

I offered weak supporting evidence in Upgrade your brain’s switchboard with broccoli sprouts where a study’s insufficient one week duration of an insufficient daily 17.3 mg sulforaphane dosage still managed to change a blood antioxidant that may have changed four thalamus-brain-area metabolites. For duration and weight comparisons, I doubled my daily amount of broccoli seeds from one to two tablespoons just before Week 6 (Day 35), and from that point onward consumed a estimated 30 52 mg sulforaphane with microwaving 3-day-old broccoli sprouts every day.

Maybe a promised “In a submitted study, we will report that peripheral GSH levels may be correlated with cognitive functions” will provide stronger evidence? I’m not holding my breath for relevant studies because:

  • There wouldn’t be potential payoffs for companies to study any broccoli sprout compound connections with research areas such as aging, migraines, etc. Daily clinically-relevant broccoli sprout dosages can be grown for < $500 a year.
  • Sponsors would have to change paradigms, a very-low-probability event. They’d have to explain why enormous resources dedicated to current frameworks haven’t produced effective long-term treatments.

What long-term benefits could be expected if I continue eating broccoli sprouts every day?

The longest relevant clinical trial I’ve seen – referenced in Part 2 of Reversal of aging and immunosenescent trends with sulforaphane – was twelve weeks. Part 2 also provided epigenetic clock examples of changes measured after 9 months, which accelerated from there to the 12-month end-of-trial point.

Reviewing clinical trials of broccoli sprouts and their compounds pointed out:

“Biomarkers of effect need more time than biomarkers of exposure to be influenced by dietary treatment.”


A contrary argument: Perhaps people don’t require long durations to effectively change their signaling environments?

I apparently didn’t start eating an effective-for-me daily broccoli sprouts dosage until Day 35, when I changed from one to two tablespoons of broccoli seeds a day. If so, Weeks 6 through 8 may account for my substantial responses during Week 9.

  • Could eating broccoli sprouts every day for four weeks dramatically change a person’s signaling environment?
  • Do you have four weeks and $38 to find out? Two tablespoons of broccoli seeds = 38 21.4 g x 30 days = .642 kg or 1.42 lbs.

This is what twice-a-day one-tablespoon starting amounts of broccoli seeds look like through three days:


Maintaining the sprouting process hasn’t been a big effort compared with the benefits.

In the absence of determinative evidence, I’ll continue eating broccoli sprouts every day. Several areas of my annual physical have room for improvements. Extending my four lifestyle “interventions” a few more months may also provide hints toward inadequately researched connections.

* Results may not be extrapolatable to other people, to any specific condition, etc.

Upgrade your brain’s switchboard with broccoli sprouts

Further investigating A claim of improved cognitive function, Part 3 of Rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane offered:

“Improving brain function does not depend on neurogenesis as much as it does on synapse formation and factors such as NMDA receptors which decline in density with age.”

A PubMed “sulforaphane NMDA receptors” search turned up a 2019 cell study The glutathione cycle shapes synaptic glutamate activity:

Sulforaphane is a potent inducer of the Nrf2 transcription factor, has blood–brain barrier penetration, and might expand the size of the glutathione reservoir by our observation that it increases expression of GCL [glutamate cysteine ligase], the rate-limiting step in glutathione biogenesis. Our recent study in human subjects revealed that sulforaphane elevates peripheral glutathione levels and those of other brain metabolites.”

The referenced study was a 2017 Sulforaphane Augments Glutathione and Influences Brain Metabolites in Human Subjects: A Clinical Pilot Study:

“We found that the naturally occurring isothiocyanate sulforaphane increased blood GSH [reduced glutathione] levels in healthy human subjects following 7 days of daily oral administration. In parallel, we explored the potential influence of sulforaphane on brain GSH levels in the anterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, and thalamus via 7-T magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

A significant positive correlation between blood and thalamic GSH post- and pre-sulforaphane treatment ratios was observed, in addition to a consistent increase in brain GSH levels in response to treatment. The sulforaphane response in brain GSH levels is not influenced by age, sex, or race.

The participants were given 100 µmol sulforaphane as standardized broccoli sprout extract in the form of 2 gel capsules, and instructed to ingest the extract each morning for 1 week.

Following sulforaphane administration, the increase in blood GSH was positively correlated with GABA, Gln [glutamine], Glu [glutamate], and GSH in the THAL [thalamus]. Although these correlations were not significant following multiple comparison, they remain suggestive. Power analysis calculations suggest that a sample size of n = 50 would yield a significant result, and this will be the focus of a future study.

As has been reported for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, longer treatment duration and/or higher dosages may be warranted. In a submitted study, we will report that peripheral GSH levels may be correlated with cognitive functions.”


One week of consuming sulforaphane wasn’t long enough to achieve much. Not enough subjects and “higher dosages may be warranted” were also thrown in to explain the lack of significant results.

Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease estimated the “100 µmol sulforaphane” dosage to be 17.3 mg. Worst-case estimates made in Estimating daily consumption of broccoli sprout compounds are that since doubling the starting amount of broccoli seeds from one to two tablespoons in Week 6, I’ve consumed 30 52 mg sulforaphane with microwaving 3-day-old broccoli sprouts every day.

Something happened where the promised “In a submitted study, we will report that peripheral GSH levels may be correlated with cognitive functions” either wasn’t performed or wasn’t published. The follow-on 2019 study became a cell study instead of a 50+ person study.


The study’s thalamus findings provided plausible explanations for why eating a clinically relevant amount of broccoli sprouts every day since at least Week 6, Week 9 was so much different from the others. Sulforaphane changed a blood antioxidant which may have changed four thalamus metabolites.

The thalamus part of our brain is analogous to a switchboard. Signals pass through it to and from other brain areas.

Signals can be routed better when we clean up and upgrade wiring, and lower circuit resistance.

Clearing out the 2019 queue of interesting papers

I’m clearing out the below queue of 27 studies and reviews I’ve partially read this year but haven’t taken the time to curate. I have a pesky full-time job that demands my presence elsewhere during the day. :-\

Should I add any of these back in? Let’s be ready for the next decade!


Early life

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12035-018-1328-x “Early Behavioral Alterations and Increased Expression of Endogenous Retroviruses Are Inherited Across Generations in Mice Prenatally Exposed to Valproic Acid” (not freely available)

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166432818309392 “Consolidation of an aversive taste memory requires two rounds of transcriptional and epigenetic regulation in the insular cortex” (not freely available)

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-018-0265-4 “Intergenerational transmission of depression: clinical observations and molecular mechanisms” (not freely available)

mother

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6454089/ “Epigenomics and Transcriptomics in the Prediction and Diagnosis of Childhood Asthma: Are We There Yet?”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6628997/Placental epigenetic clocks: estimating gestational age using placental DNA methylation levels”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770436/ “Mismatched Prenatal and Postnatal Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Child Behaviours: A Sex-Dependent Role for NR3C1 DNA Methylation in the Wirral Child Health and Development Study”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159119306440 “Environmental influences on placental programming and offspring outcomes following maternal immune activation”

https://academic.oup.com/mutage/article-abstract/34/4/315/5581970 “5-Hydroxymethylcytosine in cord blood and associations of DNA methylation with sex in newborns” (not freely available)

https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1113/JP278270 “Paternal diet impairs F1 and F2 offspring vascular function through sperm and seminal plasma specific mechanisms in mice”

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nmo.13751 “Sex differences in the epigenetic regulation of chronic visceral pain following unpredictable early life stress” (not freely available)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6811979/ “Genome-wide DNA methylation data from adult brain following prenatal immune activation and dietary intervention”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00702-019-02048-2miRNAs in depression vulnerability and resilience: novel targets for preventive strategies”


Later life

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6543991/ “Effect of Flywheel Resistance Training on Balance Performance in Older Adults. A Randomized Controlled Trial”

https://www.mdpi.com/2411-5142/4/3/61/htm “Eccentric Overload Flywheel Training in Older Adults”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41577-019-0151-6 “Epigenetic regulation of the innate immune response to infection” (not freely available)

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-13-6123-4_1 “Hair Cell Regeneration” (not freely available)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6422915/Histone Modifications as an Intersection Between Diet and Longevity”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306453019300733 “Serotonin transporter gene methylation predicts long-term cortisol concentrations in hair” (not freely available)

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0047637419300338 “Frailty biomarkers in humans and rodents: Current approaches and future advances” (not freely available)

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/pcn.12901 “Neural mechanisms underlying adaptive and maladaptive consequences of stress: Roles of dopaminergic and inflammatory responses

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627480/ “In Search of Panacea—Review of Recent Studies Concerning Nature-Derived Anticancer Agents”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0028390819303363 “Reversal of oxycodone conditioned place preference by oxytocin: Promoting global DNA methylation in the hippocampus” (not freely available)

https://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/10.2217/epi-2019-0102 “Different epigenetic clocks reflect distinct pathophysiological features of multiple sclerosis”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6834159/ “The Beige Adipocyte as a Therapy for Metabolic Diseases”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S8756328219304077 “Bone adaptation: safety factors and load predictability in shaping skeletal form” (not freely available)

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-019-0549-3 “Successful treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder reverses DNA methylation marks” (not freely available)

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0166223619301821 “Editing the Epigenome to Tackle Brain Disorders” (not freely available)

A review of fetal adverse events

This 2019 Australian review subject was fetal adversities:

“Adversity during the perinatal period is a significant risk factor for the development of neurodevelopmental disorders long after the causative event. Despite stemming from a variety of causes, perinatal compromise appears to have similar effects on the developing brain, thereby resulting in behavioural disorders of a similar nature.

These behavioural disorders occur in a sex‐dependent manner, with males affected more by externalizing behaviours such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and females by internalizing behaviours such as anxiety. The term ‘perinatal compromise’ serves as an umbrella term for intrauterine growth restriction, maternal immune activation, prenatal stress, early life stress, premature birth, placental dysfunction, and perinatal hypoxia.

The above conditions are associated with imbalanced excitatory-inhibitory pathways resulting from reduced GABAergic signalling. Methylation of the GAD1/GAD67 gene, which encodes the key glutamate‐to‐GABA synthesizing enzyme Glutamate Decarboxylase 1, resulting in increased levels of glutamate is one epigenetic mechanism that may account for a tendency towards excitation in disorders such as ADHD.

The posterior cerebellum’s role in higher executive functioning is becoming well established due to its connections with the prefrontal cortex, association cortices, and limbic system. It is now suggested that disruptions to cerebellar development, which can occur due to late gestation compromises such as preterm birth, can have a major impact on the region of the brain to which it projects.

Activation of the maternal hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and placental protection. Psychological stress is perceived by the maternal HPA axis, which stimulates cortisol release from the maternal adrenal gland.

High levels of maternal cortisol are normally prevented from reaching the fetus by the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2 (HSD11B2) enzyme, which converts cortisol to the much less active cortisone. Under conditions of high maternal stress, this protective mechanism can be overwhelmed, with the gene encoding the enzyme becoming methylated, which reduces its expression allowing cortisol to cross the placenta and reach the fetus.”


The reviewers extrapolated many animal study findings to humans, although most of their own work was with guinea pigs. The “suggest” and “may” qualifiers were used often – 22 and 37 times, respectively. More frequent use of the “appears,” “hypothesize,” “propose,” and “possible” terms was justified.

As a result, many reviewed items such as the above graphic and caption should be viewed as hypothetical for humans rather than reflecting solid evidence from quality human studies.

The reviewers focused on the prenatal (before birth) period more than the perinatal (last trimester of pregnancy to one month after birth) period. There were fewer mentions of birth and early infancy adversities.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jne.12814 “Perinatal compromise contributes to programming of GABAergic and Glutamatergic systems leading to long-term effects on offspring behaviour” (not freely available)

A mid-year selection of epigenetic topics

Here are the most popular of the 65 posts I’ve made so far in 2018, starting from the earliest:

The pain societies instill into children

DNA methylation and childhood adversity

Epigenetic mechanisms of muscle memory

Sex-specific impacts of childhood trauma

Sleep and adult brain neurogenesis

This dietary supplement is better for depression symptoms than placebo

The epigenetic clock theory of aging

A flying human tethered to a monkey

Immune memory in the brain

The lack of oxygen’s epigenetic effects on a fetus

Resiliency in stress responses

This 2018 US Veterans Administration review subject was resiliency and stress responses:

Neurobiological and behavioral responses to stress are highly variable. Exposure to a similar stressor can lead to heterogeneous outcomes — manifesting psychopathology in one individual, but having minimal effect, or even enhancing resilience, in another.

We highlight aspects of stress response modulation related to early life development and epigenetics, selected neurobiological and neurochemical systems, and a number of emotional, cognitive, psychosocial, and behavioral factors important in resilience.”

The review cited studies I’ve previously curated:


There were two things I didn’t understand about this review. The first was why the paper isn’t freely available. It’s completely paid for by the US taxpayer, and no copyright is claimed. I recommend contacting the authors for a copy.

The second was why the VA hasn’t participated in either animal or human follow-on studies to the 2015 Northwestern University GABAergic mechanisms regulated by miR-33 encode state-dependent fear. That study’s relevance to PTSD, this review’s subject, and the VA’s mission is too important to ignore. For example:

“Fear-inducing memories can be state dependent, meaning that they can best be retrieved if the brain states at encoding and retrieval are similar.

“It’s difficult for therapists to help these patients,” Radulovic said, “because the patients themselves can’t remember their traumatic experiences that are the root cause of their symptoms.”

The findings imply that in response to traumatic stress, some individuals, instead of activating the glutamate system to store memories, activate the extra-synaptic GABA system and form inaccessible traumatic memories.”

I curated the research in A study that provided evidence for basic principles of Primal Therapy. These researchers have published several papers since then. Here are the abstracts from three of them:

Experimental Methods for Functional Studies of microRNAs in Animal Models of Psychiatric Disorders

“Pharmacological treatments for psychiatric illnesses are often unsuccessful. This is largely due to the poor understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying these disorders. We are particularly interested in elucidating the mechanism of affective disorders rooted in traumatic experiences.

To date, the research of mental disorders in general has focused on the causal role of individual genes and proteins, an approach that is inconsistent with the proposed polygenetic nature of these disorders. We recently took an alternative direction, by establishing the role of miRNAs in the coding of stress-related, fear-provoking memories.

Here we describe in detail our work on the role of miR-33 in state-dependent learning, a process implicated in dissociative amnesia, wherein memories formed in a certain brain state can best be retrieved if the brain is in the same state. We present the specific experimental approaches we apply to study the role of miRNAs in this model and demonstrate that miR-33 regulates the susceptibility to state-dependent learning induced by inhibitory neurotransmission.”

Neurobiological mechanisms of state-dependent learning

“State-dependent learning (SDL) is a phenomenon relating to information storage and retrieval restricted to discrete states. While extensively studied using psychopharmacological approaches, SDL has not been subjected to rigorous neuroscientific study.

Here we present an overview of approaches historically used to induce SDL, and highlight some of the known neurobiological mechanisms, in particular those related to inhibitory neurotransmission and its regulation by microRNAs (miR).

We also propose novel cellular and circuit mechanisms as contributing factors. Lastly, we discuss the implications of advancing our knowledge on SDL, both for most fundamental processes of learning and memory as well as for development and maintenance of psychopathology.”

Neurobiological correlates of state-dependent context fear

“Retrieval of fear memories can be state-dependent, meaning that they are best retrieved if the brain states at encoding and retrieval are similar. Such states can be induced by activating extrasynaptic γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptors (GABAAR) with the broad α-subunit activator gaboxadol. However, the circuit mechanisms and specific subunits underlying gaboxadol’s effects are not well understood.

Here we show that gaboxadol induces profound changes of local and network oscillatory activity, indicative of discoordinated hippocampal-cortical activity, that were accompanied by robust and long-lasting state-dependent conditioned fear. Episodic memories typically are hippocampus-dependent for a limited period after learning, but become cortex-dependent with the passage of time.

In contrast, state-dependent memories continued to rely on hippocampal GABAergic mechanisms for memory retrieval. Pharmacological approaches with α- subunit-specific agonists targeting the hippocampus implicated the prototypic extrasynaptic subunits (α4) as the mediator of state-dependent conditioned fear.

Together, our findings suggest that continued dependence on hippocampal rather than cortical mechanisms could be an important feature of state-dependent memories that contributes to their conditional retrieval.”


Here’s an independent 2017 Netherlands/UC San Diego review that should bring these researchers’ efforts to the VA’s attention:

MicroRNAs in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can develop following exposure to or witnessing of a (potentially) threatening event. A critical issue is to pinpoint the (neuro)biological mechanisms underlying the susceptibility to stress-related disorder such as PTSD, which develops in the minority of ~15% of individuals exposed to trauma.

Over the last few years, a first wave of epigenetic studies has been performed in an attempt to identify the molecular underpinnings of the long-lasting behavioral and mental effects of trauma exposure. The potential roles of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) such as microRNAs (miRNAs) in moderating or mediating the impact of severe stress and trauma are increasingly gaining attention. To date, most studies focusing on the roles of miRNAs in PTSD have, however, been completed in animals, using cross-sectional study designs and focusing almost exclusively on subjects with susceptible phenotypes.

Therefore, there is a strong need for new research comprising translational and cross-species approaches that use longitudinal designs for studying trajectories of change contrasting susceptible and resilient subjects. The present review offers a comprehensive overview of available studies of miRNAs in PTSD and discusses the current challenges, pitfalls, and future perspectives of this field.”

Here’s a 2017 Netherlands human study that similarly merits the US Veterans Administration’s attention:

Circulating miRNA associated with posttraumatic stress disorder in a cohort of military combat veterans

“Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects many returning combat veterans, but underlying biological mechanisms remain unclear. In order to compare circulating micro RNA (miRNA) of combat veterans with and without PTSD, peripheral blood from 24 subjects was collected following deployment, and isolated miRNA was sequenced.

PTSD was associated with 8 differentially expressed miRNA. Pathway analysis shows that PTSD is related to the axon guidance and Wnt signaling pathways, which work together to support neuronal development through regulation of growth cones. PTSD is associated with miRNAs that regulate biological functions including neuronal activities, suggesting that they play a role in PTSD symptomatology.”


See the below comments for reasons why I downgraded this review’s rating.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11920-018-0887-x “Stress Response Modulation Underlying the Psychobiology of Resilience” (not freely available)

Sleep and adult brain neurogenesis

This 2018 Japan/Detroit review subject was the impact of sleep and epigenetic modifications on adult dentate gyrus neurogenesis:

“We discuss the functions of adult‐born DG neurons, describe the epigenetic regulation of adult DG neurogenesis, identify overlaps in how sleep and epigenetic modifications impact adult DG neurogenesis and memory consolidation..

Whereas the rate of DG neurogenesis declines exponentially with age in most mammals, humans appear to exhibit a more modest age‐related reduction in DG neurogenesis. Evidence of adult neurogenesis has also been observed in other regions of the mammalian brain such as the subventricular zone, neocortex, hypothalamus, amygdala, and striatum.

Adult‐born DG neurons functionally integrate into hippocampal circuitry and play a special role in cognition during a period of heightened excitability and synaptic plasticity occurring 4–6 weeks after mitosis. Adult DG neurogenesis is regulated by a myriad of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, including:

  • drugs,
  • diet,
  • inflammation,
  • physical activity,
  • environmental enrichment,
  • stress, and
  • trauma.”


Some of what the review stated was contradicted by other evidence. For example, arguments for sleep were based on the memory consolidation paradigm, but evidence against memory consolidation wasn’t cited for balanced consideration.

It reminded me of A review that inadvertently showed how memory paradigms prevented relevant research. That review’s citations included a study led by one of those reviewers where:

“The researchers elected to pursue a workaround of the memory reconsolidation paradigm when the need for a new paradigm of enduring memories directly confronted them!”

Some of what this review stated was speculation. I didn’t quote any sections after:

 “We go one step further and propose..”

The review also had a narrative directed toward:

“Employing sleep interventions and epigenetic drugs..”

It’s storytelling rather than pursuing the scientific method when reviewers approach a topic as these reviewers did.

Instead of reading a directed narrative, read this informative blog post from a Canadian researcher. The post provided scientific contexts to summarize what was and wasn’t known in 2018 about human neurogenesis.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/stem.2815/epdf “Regulatory Influence of Sleep and Epigenetics on Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Cognitive and Emotional Function”

Sex-specific impacts of childhood trauma

This 2018 Canadian paper reviewed evidence for potential sex-specific differences in the lasting impacts of childhood trauma:

“This paper will provide a contextualized summary of neuroendocrine, neuroimaging, and behavioral epigenetic studies on biological sex differences contributing to internalizing psychopathology, specifically posttraumatic stress disorder and depression, among adults with a history of childhood abuse.

Given the breadth of this review, we limit our definition [of] trauma to intentional and interpersonal experiences (i.e., childhood abuse and neglect) in childhood. Psychopathological outcomes within this review will be limited to commonly explored internalizing disorders, specifically PTSD and depression.

Despite the inconsistent and limited findings in this review, a critical future consideration will be whether the biological effects of early life stress can be reversed in the face of evidence-based behavioral interventions, and furthermore, whether these changes may relate to potentially concurrent reductions in susceptibility to negative mental health outcomes.”


It was refreshing to read a paper where the reviewers often interrupted the reader’s train of thought to interject contradictory evidence, and display the scientific method. For example, immediately after citing a trio of well-respected studies that found:

“Psychobiological research on relationships linking impaired HPA axis functioning and adult internalizing disorders are suggestive of lower basal and afternoon levels of plasma cortisol in PTSD phenotype.”

the reviewers stated:

“However, a recent meta-analysis suggests no association between basal cortisol with PTSD.”

and effectively ended the cortisol discussion with:

“Findings are dependent upon variance in extenuating factors, including but not limited to, different measurements of:

  • early adversity,
  • age of onset,
  • basal cortisol levels, as well as
  • trauma forms and subtypes, and
  • presence and severity of psychopathology symptomology.”

The reviewers also provided good summaries of aspects of the reviewed subject. For example, the “Serotonergic system genetic research, childhood trauma and risk of psychopathology” subsection ended with:

“Going forward, studies must explore the longitudinal effects of early trauma on methylation as well as comparisons of multiple loci methylation patterns and interactions to determine the greatest factors contributing to health outcomes. Only then, can we start to consider the role of sex in moderating risk.”


I didn’t agree with the cause-ignoring approach of the behavior therapy mentioned in the review. Does it make sense to approach one category of symptoms:

“the biological effects of early life stress”

by treating another category of symptoms?

“can be reversed in the face of evidence-based behavioral interventions.”

But addressing symptoms instead of the sometimes-common causes that generate both biological and behavioral effects continues to be the direction.

After receiving short-term symptom relief, wouldn’t people prefer treatments of originating causes so that their various symptoms don’t keep bubbling up? Why wouldn’t research paradigms be aligned accordingly?

I was encouraged by the intergenerational and transgenerational focus of one of the reviewer’s research:

“Dr. Gonzalez’s current research focus is to understand the mechanisms by which early experiences are transmitted across generations and how preventive interventions may affect this transmission.”

This line of hypotheses requires detailed histories, and should uncover causes for many effects that researchers may otherwise shrug off as unexplainable individual differences. Its aims include the preconception through prenatal periods when both the largest and the largest number of epigenetic changes occur, and is when our susceptibility and sensitivity to our environment is greatest. There are fewer opportunities for effective “preventive interventions” in later life compared with these early periods.

Unlike lab rats, women and men can reach some degree of honesty about our early lives’ experiential causes of ongoing adverse effects. Experiential therapies that allow humans to potentially change their responses to these causes deserve more investigation than do therapies that apply external “interventions.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735817302647 “Biological alterations affecting risk of adult psychopathology following childhood trauma: A review of sex differences” (not freely available) Thanks to lead author Dr. Ashwini Tiwari for providing a copy.

Differing approaches to a life wasted on beliefs

Let’s start by observing that people structure their lives around beliefs. As time goes on, what actions would a person have taken to ward off non-confirming evidence?

One response may be that they would engage in ever-increasing efforts to develop new beliefs that justified how they spent their one precious life’s time so far.

Such was my take on beliefs embedded in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5684598/pdf/PSYCHIATRY2017-5491812.pdf “Epigenetic and Neural Circuitry Landscape of Psychotherapeutic Interventions”:

“Animal models have shown the benefits of continued environmental enrichment (EE) on psychopathological phenotypes, which carries exciting translational value.

This paper posits that psychotherapy serves as a positive environmental input (something akin to EE).”

The author conveyed his belief that wonderful interventions were going to happen in the future. However, when scrutinized, most human studies have demonstrated null effects of psychotherapeutic interventions on causes. Without sound evidence that treatments affect causes, his belief seemed driven by something else.

The author cited findings of research like A problematic study of oxytocin receptor gene methylation, childhood abuse, and psychiatric symptoms as supporting external interventions to tamp down symptoms of patients’ presenting problems. Did any of the 300+ cited references concern treatments where patients instead therapeutically addressed their problems’ root causes?


For an analogous religious example, a person’s belief caused him to spend years of his life trying to convince men to act so that they could get their own planet after death, and trying to convince women to latch onto men who had this belief. A new and apparently newsworthy belief developed from his underlying causes:

“The founder and CEO of neuroscience company Kernel wants “to expand the bounds of human intelligence.” He is planning to do this with neuroprosthetics; brain augmentations that can improve mental function and treat disorders. Put simply, Kernel hopes to place a chip in your brain.

He was raised as a Mormon in Utah and it was while carrying out two years of missionary work in Ecuador that he was struck by what he describes as an “overwhelming desire to improve the lives of others.”

He suffered from chronic depression from the ages of 24 to 34, and has seen his father and stepfather face huge mental health struggles.”

https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2017/dec/14/humans-20-meet-the-entrepreneur-who-wants-to-put-a-chip-in-your-brain “Humans 2.0: meet the entrepreneur who wants to put a chip in your brain”

The article stated that he had given up Mormonism. There was nothing to suggest, though, that he had therapeutically addressed any underlying causes for his misdirected thoughts, feelings, and behavior. So he developed other beliefs instead.


What can people do to keep their lives from being wasted on beliefs? As mentioned in What was not, is not, and will never be:

“The problem is that spending our time and efforts on these ideas, beliefs, and behaviors won’t ameliorate their motivating causes. Our efforts only push us further away from our truths, with real consequences: a wasted life.

The goal of the therapeutic approach advocated by Dr. Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy is to remove the force of the presenting problems’ motivating causes. Success in reaching this goal is realized when patients become better able to live their own lives.


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