In a new study published in BMJ openscientists point out that steroids used for asthma (glucocorticoids) can alter the brain white matter, located in the deep parts of the organ. The white appearance – and directly responsible for its name – is the result of the whitish fatty substance that surrounds the axons, called the myelin sheath.
The role of white matter is to allow the transmission of information between different areas of gray matter. It is directly related to learning and brain function, coordinating communication between different regions. Much remains to be discovered about this region, precisely because of its location in such deep tissues.
The study used UK BioBank data to follow 500,000 people from 2006 to 2010. Of these, 222 used oral glucocorticoids and 557 inhaled glucocorticoids.
In addition to asthma, these glucocorticoids can be used to treat allergies such as rhinitis and inflammatory conditions such as skin conditions, lupus, tendonitis, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. However, previous research has linked long-term use to shrinkage of certain areas of the brain. Another warning impact is on mental health, with anxiety and depression understood as possible consequences.
As the authors themselves comment, the idea of the study is to show to what extent the white matter, necessary for the connection of neurons, is affected by the consumption of drugs. However, the experts themselves emphasize that “there is no cause for alarm”.
It turns out that the effect of these asthma steroids on the brain’s white matter is temporary: due to brain plasticity, the ability of the brain to rearrange its structure, functions, or connections, the organ may “shrink” during use. of these steroids, but it returns to normal. . This means the white matter can repair itself.
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