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Ways to Spark Neurogenesis as an Adult
Andrew Beranbom
Ways to Spark Neurogenesis as an Adult

Ways to Spark Neurogenesis as an Adult

Does your brain stop growing when you reach adulthood?

This is a hot button topic in the scientific community. Let’s look into the science of neurogenesis. Are there any ways you can boost the growth of new brain cells?

What Is Neurogenesis?

Neurogenesis is the formation of new neurons in specific parts of your brain. The neurons grow from neural stem cells and they’re just as functional as the other neurons in your brain. When these new cells develop fully, they become a part of your neural circuits. [1]

So does neurogenesis happen in adulthood?

Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience, claimed that adult brains cannot change in this way [2]. His work revolutionized medical science at the beginning of the 20th century. But is it true that adult brains are immutable?

The greatest part of neurogenesis happens before and immediately after birth. As infants experience more of the world, their brains grow and change shape.

In adulthood, the process slows down considerably. However, some studies show [3] that adults go through neurogenesis as well.

But is there anything you can do to make this process faster? How can you get your brain to produce more cells?

How to Improve Neurogenesis in the Adult Brain

What makes neurogenesis so alluring?

We all love the idea of becoming mentally sharper. Additionally, the aging of the brain is a distressing fact of life. Neurogenesis can help us return to top form, and even exceed it.

So what are some scientifically proven ways you can give your neuron production a boost?

  1. Try Sustained Aerobic Exercise

You already know that you need to work out regularly. After all, it’s good for your heart, your lungs, and it’s absolutely crucial to your long-term health. But can exercise improve neurogenesis as well?

Research says that it can. [4] Aerobic exercise aids the generation of neurons in the hippocampus.

So why not take up jogging? You can also sign up for dance classes, martial arts, or yoga. Remember that aerobic exercise is a slow-burn workout that doesn’t leave you out of breath.

  1. Intermittent Fasting Can Help

Scientists have found [5] that fasting can help your brain generate new cells. But why is abstaining from food useful for your neural health?

Intermittent fasting alters your brain chemistry. When you are hungry, your brain releases a hormone. This elicits a stress response. Then the stress response leads to increased neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

However, it’s crucial to take a responsible approach to fasting. Make sure to choose a safe and tested diet plan. You can ask a nutritionist for advice if you feel uncertain.

  1. Improve Your Diet

Eating well can be all your brain needs to ramp up nerve production. Extensive research has confirmed this [6]. So what kind of diet will aid your neurogenesis?

First, it’s important to switch to a low-fat diet. Saturated fats [7] decrease the creation of new neural cells. Cutting back on high-fat foods will improve your health in a number of ways.

But there are also foods that can boost neurogenesis. Here are a few elements you should add to your diet.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids can improve the production of cells in your hippocampus by 40%. These nutrients keep your brain young and fit in a number of ways.

Natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids include tuna, herring, anchovies, and wild salmon. You can also improve your omega-3 levels by eating walnuts or consuming canola oil. Supplements are a good option as well.

  • Tea and Chocolate

Tea and chocolate are all rich in epicatechin, which can help reverse the effects that aging has on your brain. Epicatechin is particularly useful for promoting the growth of new cells. Blueberries are another great source for this ingredient.

  • Red Wine and Grapes

You might have heard that red wine is good for your heart health. This is because it is rich in resveratrol, which can improve your cholesterol levels. But it seems that resveratrol could also be good for your protecting your brain from aging. [8]

So does drinking wine actually help the production of brain cells? It does to some extent. However, drinking to an excess does a considerable amount of harm to your brain instead.

  1. Use Flat Shoes

The human body works in really unexpected ways.

Scientists found [9] that using flat shoes has a positive effect on the brain. The receptors in your feet send signals to your brain. This causes an increased generation of neural cells.

  1. Avoid Stress

Being in stressful situations inhibits cell growth. This extends to your brain as well. [10] Although more research is necessary on this subject, it is certain that de-stressing will be good for your neural cells.

What about Treatment?

Diet changes and new shoes are a good enough approach for most of us. But are there ways to improve neurogenesis directly? Have doctors found any methods to change the way the brain produces new cells?

Drug treatments [11] can be used to increase brain cell production. Electrical stimulation [12] could be helpful as well. However, these treatments are still in the testing phase.

Neurogenesis and Depression

There is a fascinating link between neurogenesis and severe depression [13].

Being depressed shrinks the hippocampus and inhibits the growth of new brain cells. Eventually, antidepressants can undo this damage to the brain. Successful depression treatment will boost neurogenesis.

However, antidepressants don’t always work. This can be because the hippocampus is reduced in size.

Hence, doctors are considering reversing the process. If they could improve neurogenesis in people with depression, it might make it easier for antidepressants to have an effect.

A Final Word

Neurogenesis research is still full of contradictions and unexplored questions. But we do know for sure that adults are capable of some degree of neurogenesis. Additionally, there are ways we can increase it.

This research is especially important to people who suffered a brain injury. For example, it could speed up and improve stroke recovery.

But improving neurogenesis will be helpful to everyone. After all, it can make it easier to pay attention and to form new memories. While the exact effects of neurogenesis are still being researched, we know it can also help prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

You can do a lot to boost the production of new cells in your brain. In time, a more direct form of treatment could become a casual part of our lives.

[1] https://www.nature.com/subjects/adult-neurogenesis

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK3874/

[3] http://cshperspectives.cshlp.org/content/7/7/a018994.full

[4] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160208083606.htm

[5] http://www.inifoundation.org/index.php/education/neuroscience-anthology/212-intermittent-fasting-implications-for-neurogenesis-and-the-treatment-of-neurological-and-neurodegenerative-disorders

[6] https://www.livestrong.com/article/534301-foods-for-neurogenesis/

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20670674

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27876118

[9] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030698771630189X

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16411244

[11] https://www.technologyreview.com/s/410203/drugs-to-grow-your-brain/

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610200/

[13] http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/2014/02/the-future-of-depression-treatment-the-neurogenesis-theory/#.WsNqZZWsZPY

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