Nutrients, brain biochemistry, and behavior: A possible role for the neuronal membrane

Shlomo Yehuda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Nutrients can modify brain biochemistry and behavior. Many studies indicate that one possible mode of action of nutrients is to induce alterations in the bioavailability of neurotransmitter precursors within the brain. However, a series of studies has also indicated that: (a) learning induces a decrease in the level of cholesterol in specific brain regions; (b) an iron-deficient diet induces changes in dopaminergic D receptor activity and in dopamine-associated behaviors (thermoregulation and motor activity) as well as in learning and memory capacities; and (c) dietary manipulation of a specific type of fatty acid resulted in an improved learning capacity, modification of the pain threshold level, and in thermoregulatory response. The most parsimonious explanation for these results seems to be that the treatments (learning, iron-deficient and fatty acid diets) induced changes in the lipid composition of the neuronal membrane. Such changes, in turn, resulted in changes in the membrane functions. Supportive evidence for this hypothesis is presented in this review. The "neuronal membrane functional modification hypothesis" should not be considered as contradictory to the accepted "brain neurotransmitter precursors bioavailability rates model" of nutrient effects, but as a complementary hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-36
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 1987


  • Iron-deficient diet
  • Learning
  • Lipids
  • Membrane fluidity
  • Memory
  • Motor activity
  • Nutrients
  • Pain threshold
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Thermoregulation


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