Brain permeability is linked to depression and other mental health problems. How to mend the gaps.
Your brain is like a powerful command centre, surrounded by a wall to prevent enemy elements from breaching security. Damage to the wall undermines the strength of the command centre. The blood brain barrier is that wall. If compromised, the brain is left vulnerable to assault and subsequent mental health problems.
“Leaky brain” may sound comically implausible, but increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a well-known phenomenon in neuroscience.
The role of the blood-brain barrier
You may be familiar with leaky gut syndrome. This is where the gut lining becomes damaged, and all sorts of undesirables — toxins, undigested food particles, bacteria — are able to pass from the gut into the blood, creating any number of health issues, ranging from skin disorders to mental fog.
The role of the gut epithelium is to act as a barrier between the gut and the rest of the body. Just like the gut epithelium, the role of the BBB is to be selective about what passes through to the brain, and to block harmful substances, including heavy metals, bacteria, viruses, and environmental toxins. Some substances are meant to cross over the BBB, and they do so with the help of specialist transport proteins. These substances include nutrients, oxygen, amino acids and glucose.
Both the gut epithelium and the BBB are comprised of just a single layer of cells, held together by structures called tight junctions.
“The junctional proteins in the brain are similar to those of the small intestine.”
How does the brain become leaky?
What causes a leaky gut can also cause a leaky brain. At the top of the list, in both cases, is inflammation.
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