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Molecular bases of caloric restriction regulation of neuronal synaptic plasticity.

Aging is associated with the decline of cognitive properties. This situation is magnified when neurodegenerative processes associated with aging appear in human patients. Neuronal synaptic plasticity events underlie cognitive properties in the central nervous system. Caloric restriction (CR; either a decrease in food intake or an intermittent fasting diet) can extend life span and increase disease resistance. Recent studies have shown that CR can have profound effects on brain function and vulnerability to injury and disease. Moreover, CR can stimulate the production of new neurons from stem cells (neurogenesis) and can enhance synaptic plasticity, which modulate pain sensation, enhance cognitive function, and may increase the ability of the brain to resist aging. The beneficial effects of CR appear to be the result of a cellular stress response stimulating the production of proteins that enhance neuronal plasticity and resistance to oxidative and metabolic insults; they include neurotrophic factors, neurotransmitter receptors, protein chaperones, and mitochondrial biosynthesis regulators. In this review, we will present and discuss the effect of CR in synaptic processes underlying analgesia and cognitive improvement in healthy, sick, and aging animals. We will also discuss the possible role of mitochondrial biogenesis induced by CR in regulation of neuronal synaptic plasticity.

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