Signs & Symptoms of “Leaky Brain”

Health Conditions
Linked to a “Leaky Brain”

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is incredibly important in your health. It regulates the transfer of materials and chemicals between your bloodstream and your brain. When the delicate blood-brain barrier is damaged or compromised sometimes serious health conditions like anxiety, depression, memory loss, and dementia can develop.

Below is a non-comprehensive list of the different health conditions and neurological disorders linked to altered blood-brain barrier permeability, “Leaky Brain”.

Brain Fog

Brain fog is a more common term for cognitive dysfunction, which is a collection of symptoms that alter an individual’s way of thinking. Common symptoms include issues concentrating or multi-tasking and both short and long-term memory loss.

One possible cause of brain fog is inflammation. Mast cells in the blood-brain barrier help control selectivity of what substances are allowed passed the BBB into the brain. They also initiate and end inflammation. Activated mast cells release pro-inflammatory factors that increase blood-brain barrier permeability. Mast cells are triggered by brain histamine and also can contribute to brain fog and anxiety as well as disrupting the blood-brain barrier.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients have high levels of MMP9. As the patient’s health worsens, the concentration of the MMP9 in the spinal fluid increases. MMP9 is believed to damage the blood-brain barrier. Also, high albumin levels in the brain create proinflammatory cytokine production, preventing potassium levels from being balanced. The result is nerve cells that are more vulnerable to glutamate toxicity which is a mechanism for multiple sclerosis.


Inflammation over the long-term can cause neurovascular dysfunction, disrupting normal brain activity which can lead to depression. Chemokines are a type of cytokine (small proteins) that attracts cells to inflammation sites. Chemokines cannot normally cross the blood-brain barrier, but with increased blood-brain permeability, like during major depressive disorders, chemokines pass through the barrier. Brain inflammation is believed to impair nerve function and increase BBB permeability during major depressive disorder.


The oxidative damage (imbalance) and the inflammation in the brain that causes schizophrenia can also damage the blood-brain barrier. Brain inflammation causes astroglial cell damage. These cells help control the blood-brain barrier. Brain-barrier breakdown contributes to the inflammatory responses that are linked to schizophrenia.

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is believed to be related to the disruption of the tight junctions that help maintain the blood-brain barrier function. The disrupted junctions result in higher barrier permeability. The altered transport of molecules between the blood and brain is believed to contribute to the progression of Huntington’s disease.


Some researchers believe that seizures are both a cause and a result of the disrupted blood-barrier function. Stress activates brain mast cells around the blood-brain barrier disrupting its function. The activation of the mast cells also contributes to the migraine headaches that increase the likelihood of seizures.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Some researchers believe that changes in the blood-brain barrier play a role in autism. Increased gene production of MMP9 in autistic patients increases blood-brain barrier permeability. The tight junction proteins in the blood-brain barrier of autistic patient’s brains are also altered with an increase in pore-forming tight junctions and a decrease in the level of barrier-forming tight junctions leads to higher levels of blood-barrier permeability.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is likely caused by a toxic protein called a beta-amyloid peptide (Aβ). This toxic protein may cause neurovascular units to not function properly. It enters the nerve cells, forming plaques that interfere with nerve function and eventually kill brain cells. The types of adhesion molecules that damage the blood-brain barrier may allow for beta-amyloid peptide (Aβ) to accumulate in the brain.


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