Équipe de recherche sur le cerveau

About the lab

We are a research lab established in Sherbrooke since 2003.

Mission: Slow down the early progression of neurodegenerative disorders via an alternative brain energy supply provided by ketones.

Expertise: Diet and ketogenic supplements, Alzheimer's disease, Mild cognitive impairment, Brain imaging, Clinical research, Memory and cognition, Energy metabolism

Featured research (29)

Background Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is characterized by a decline in cognition and mainly affects older individuals above the age of 60. The global incidence of MCI varies, but it is often underdiagnosed and untreated. There is a distinct lack of approved pharmacologic options to treat MCI. There is, however, evidence to support the efficacy of nutritional interventions, such as ketogenic supplements/diets, which offer ketones as an alternative energy source to brain cells. This article explores the effect of ketones on metabolic activity in the brain and the mechanisms by which ketogenic medium-chain triglycerides (kMCTs) induce ketosis in patients with MCI. Key takeaways This article reviews the effect of ketogenic supplements/diets on brain metabolism, including evidence supporting the efficacy of ketones as an efficient fuel for the brain. It discusses the use of oral nutritional ketogenic supplements, with particular reference to the 6-month randomized controlled BENEFIC trial, which showed that consumption of a kMCT drink, BrainXpert Energy Complex, improved cognitive performance in individuals with MCI compared with placebo. Conclusion While there is a need for more long-term studies, results from the BENEFIC trial revealed the benefits of a brain-specific ketogenic supplement, as a nutritional intervention, on cognitive performance in individuals with MCI.
INTRODUCTION: White matter (WM) energy supply is crucial for axonal function and myelin maintenance. Providing ketones, the brain s alternative fuel to glucose, is a therapeutic strategy to bypass the brain s glucose-specific energy deficit in mild cognitive impairment (MCI). How an additional supply of ketones affects glucose or ketone uptake in specific WM fascicles in MCI has not previously been described. METHODS: This 6-month interventional study included MCI participants randomized to a placebo (n = 16) or ketogenic medium chain triglyceride (kMCT; n = 17) drink. A neurocognitive battery and brain imaging were performed pre- and post-intervention. WM fascicle uptake of ketone and glucose and structural properties were assessed using positron emission tomography and diffusion imaging, respectively. RESULTS: Ketone uptake was increased by 2.5 to 3.2-fold in nine fascicles of interest (P < 0.001) only in the kMCT group, an effect seen both in deep WM and in fascicle cortical endpoints. Improvement in processing speed was associated with WM ketone uptake globally and in individual fascicles, most importantly the fornix (r = +0.61; P = 0.014). DISCUSSION: A 6-month ketogenic supplementation in MCI improved WM energy supply globally. The significant positive association with processing speed suggests that ketones may have a role in myelin integrity in MCI.
The brain requires a large amount of energy, mostly derived from the metabolism of glucose, which decreases substantially with age and neurological diseases. While mounting evidence in model organisms illustrates the central role of brain nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) for maintaining energy homeostasis, similar data are sparse in humans. This study explores the correlations between brain NAD, energy production and membrane phospholipid metabolism by 31-phosphorous magnetic resonance spectroscopy ( ³¹ P-MRS) across 50 healthy participants including a young (mean age 27.1-year-old) and middle-aged (mean age 56.4-year-old) group. The analysis revealed that brain NAD level and NAD ⁺ /NADH redox ratio were positively associated with ATP level and the rate of energy production, respectively. Moreover, a metabolic network linking NAD with membrane phospholipid metabolism, energy production, and aging was identified. An inverted trend between age and NAD level was detected. These results pave the way for the use of ³¹ P-MRS as a powerful non-invasive tool to support the development of new therapeutic interventions targeting NAD associated phospho-metabolic pathways in brain aging and neurological diseases.
Introduction Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is often accompanied by metabolic abnormalities and inflammation that might play a role in the development of cognitive impairment. The use of ketogenic medium-chain triglycerides (kMCT) to improve cognition in this population has shown promising results but remains controversial because of the potentially detrimental effect of elevated intake of saturated fatty acids on cardiovascular (CV) health and perhaps inflammatory processes. The primary aim of this secondary data analysis report is to describe changes in cardiometabolic markers and peripheral inflammation during a 6-month kMCT intervention in MCI. Methods Thirty-nine participants with MCI completed the intervention of 30 g/day of either a kMCT drink or calorie-matched placebo (high-oleic acid) for 6 months. Plasma concentrations of cardiometabolic and inflammatory markers were collected before (fasting state) and after the intervention (2 hours following the last drink). Results A mixed model ANOVA analysis revealed a time by group interaction for ketones (P < 0.001), plasma 8:0 and 10:0 acids (both P < 0.001) and IL-8 (P = 0.002) with follow up comparison revealing a significant increase in the kMCT group (+48%, P = 0.005), (+3,800 and +4,900%, both P < 0.001) and (+147%, P < 0.001) respectively. A main effect of time was observed for insulin (P = 0.004), triglycerides (P = 0.011) and non-esterified fatty acids (P = 0.036). Conclusion Under these study conditions, 30 g/d of kMCT taken for six months and up to 2-hour before post-intervention testing had minimal effect on an extensive profile of circulating cardiometabolic and inflammatory markers as compared to a placebo calorie-matched drink. Our results support the safety kMCT supplementation in individuals with MCI. The clinical significance of the observed increase in circulating IL-8 levels is presently unknown and awaits future studies.
Background Diet is a powerful modulator of brain health. The ketogenic diet (KD), a very low carbohydrate diet, is remarkably effective in treating refractory epilepsy; 50‐70% of patients have >50% seizure reduction and 30% have >90% seizure reduction. Although the mechanisms underlying its effectiveness are not definitively known, reduction of neuronal hyperexcitability and neuroprotective effects of ketones have been demonstrated, as has reduction in AD pathology in rodent models. We tested the effect of a 6‐week Modified Mediterranean‐like KD (MMKD) compared with a low‐fat American Heart Association Diet (AHAD) on AD biomarkers and memory. Method The study used a randomized crossover design in which participants consumed either a MMKD (5‐10% of total daily calories obtained from carbohydrates) or the control AHAD (∼15% of calories obtained from fat per day) for 6 weeks, followed by a 6‐week washout period during which participants were instructed to resume their pre‐study diet, after which the second diet was consumed for 6 weeks. Diets were equicaloric with participants’ normal diet. Compliance was verified by measuring blood ketone levels. CSF collection, pseudocontinuous arterial spin label (pcASL) MRI, ¹¹ C‐AcAc/ ¹⁸ F FDG Positron Emission Tomography (PET), and memory testing (Z score composite constructed from Story Recall and Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test) were performed at baseline and at the end of each intervention. Result A total of 20 participants completed both diets, with 3 participants discontinuing the study early. Mean compliance rates for completers were 90% for the MMKD and 95% for AHAD. The MMKD was associated with increased CSF Aβ42 and decreased tau. Cerebral perfusion increased after the MMKD in AD regions of interest, and whole‐brain ketone uptake increased on ¹¹ C‐AcAc PET. No changes in these outcomes were observed following the AHAD. Memory performance improved after both diets. Conclusion The MKKD intervention favorably influenced CSF AD biomarkers, cerebral perfusion, and memory. These results provide the basis for an ongoing Phase II study using a longer intervention in a larger sample of adults with MCI.

Lab head

Stephen Cunnane
  • Centre de recherche sur le vieillissement
About Stephen Cunnane
  • Study changing brain fuel metabolism and cognitive function during aging

Members (4)

Etienne Croteau
  • Université de Sherbrooke
Mélanie Fortier
  • Université de Sherbrooke
Valérie St-Pierre
  • Université de Sherbrooke
Camille Vandenberghe
  • Université de Sherbrooke

Alumni (7)

Christian-Alexandre Castellano
  • Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec
Marie Hennebelle
  • Wageningen University & Research
Raphaël Chouinard-Watkins
  • University of Toronto
Étienne Myette-Côté
  • University of Prince Edward Island