New Mass Spectrometry Technique Connects UV Rays with Intelligence

As providers of the dedicated lab furniture that should support every mass spectrometer, we here at QuietBench like to spread the news when researchers make an innovative contribution to science. Here’s a report on a new discovery, aided by a specific mass spectrometry technique, that has increased our knowledge about human understanding.

The Role of Mass Spectrometry in a Recent Accidental Finding

Earlier this year, The Scientist reported on an unexpected discovery from a study into molecular analysis. Researchers in China were using a newly developed mass spectrometry technique to analyze single neurons, charting chemical constituents, physiological changes, and metabolism. Being able to investigate chemical changes at the cell level opens the window to observing physiological and pathological processes at levels not previously possible.

During this process, the researchers noticed the unanticipated presence of urocanic acid in the neurons. This acid absorbs ultraviolet (UV) light and may have a role in preventing UV skin damage. A literature search revealed that this molecule had not previously been detected in the central nervous system. Recognizing that they were entering uncharted territory, the researchers began to explore the possibility that UV light could boost urocanic acid levels in the brain.

Discovering How UV Light Impacts Learning and Memory

The results of their research were significant. Urocanic acid is also known to be an intermediate molecule generated in the conversion of histidine to glutamate, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter. Could urocanic acid and glutamate levels be connected?

Exposing mice to UV light, the researchers were able to confirm the connection between urocanic acid and glutamate, and also to link UV light to the increase in their presence in the brain. The researchers then were able to prove that mice exposed to increased UV light also experienced improvements in learning and memory. This skin-brain connection reveals that UV light can indeed support the human capacity to learn and understand.

Awaiting Further Developments in Research

Since mice are nocturnal and see the sun relatively rarely, further research must be done to confirm these connections and perhaps eventually apply them to humans. Meanwhile, since UV light is also still highly correlated with skin damage and cancer, this news is not an invitation for humans to stay out in the sun. It is, however, an intriguing development. Down the line, in fact, there may come a day when people can benefit from increased cognition capacity without having to expose themselves to UV rays at all.

Meanwhile, we hope that exposing you to these periodic news bulletins about the beneficial assistance of mass spectrometry in research labs is sufficient to keep you moving forward on your own research trajectories.

Your mass spec is a valuable partner in your research and deserves the very best foundation upon which to work. This is why we have created dedicated lab furniture that functions as a sturdy and silent partner in your discoveries. To learn more about how our IonBench MS can improve your workflow and hasten your own new understandings and discoveries, contact Tim Hawkins today by email at or by phone at 1-888-669-1233.