STEM-Talk: Mark Mattson on the brain’s most important neurotransmitter

The Godfather of Intermittent Fasting is back on STEM-Talk.

Dr. Mark Mattson STEM-Talk

Dr. Mark Mattson is back for a third appearance on STEM-Talk. His first two interviews focused on the many ways that fasting optimizes healthspan and lifespan.

This time we shift gears to talk about Mattson’s work on glutamate following the publication of his new book, “Sculptor and Destroyer: Tales of Glutamate – The Brain’s Most Important Neurotransmitter.” The episode is available now on our website and wherever you listen to podcasts.

More than 90 percent of the neurons in the brain deploy the little-known molecule glutamate as their neurotransmitter. Glutamate also controls the structure and function of the brain’s neuronal networks and mediates many of our human capabilities, such as learning and memory, creativity and imagination.

But there’s also a dark side to glutamate.

Mattson shares how subtle aberrancies in the activity of neurons can deploy glutamate in such a way that it can cause disorders such as autism and schizophrenia and epilepsy as well as diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and ALS.

You won’t want to miss this conversation with includes:

  • Why Mattson feels his research on glutamate is his most important, given his substantial contributions in other areas such as intermittent fasting.
  • His motivation to understand how the pieces of the ‘brain puzzle’ fit together and how that desire has fueled his broad scope of research.
  • Why historically, researchers largely ignored the possibility that glutamate was a neurotransmitter and how a Japanese professor during World War II demonstrated that glutamate could excite neurons.
  • And much, much more.

After receiving his doctorate from the University of Iowa, Mark did his postdoc research at Colorado State University and then took position at the University of Kentucky to establish his own lab and independent research program. In 2000, the National Institute of Aging recruited Mark to head its neuroscience laboratory. He spent almost 20 years there and today and is on the neuroscience faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Review Mark’s previous STEM-Talks here in Episode 7, and here in Episode 133.

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