Increasing Hippocampal Neurogenesis At Home
If results from the above studies predict with reasonable accuracy how neurogenesis operates in humans, then the age-dependent decline in adult hippocampal neurogenesis should be reduced by cognitive stimulation , exercise, avoiding overeating, getting a good night’s rest, minimising heavy drinking, not smoking, and generally steering clear of stress. Based on the evidence reviewed in this post, encouragement of new brain cell growth by these means could reduce anxiety and depression, and it could improve your ability to acquire memories about facts and events.
If the implications of these findings end up being completely off base, it nevertheless shouldn’t hurt to follow the recommendations: Avoiding overconsumption and stress should benefit you one way or another!
Five Ways To Grow New Brain Cells
It used to be believed that you were born with all the neurons you were going to have. It wasnt until the late 1960s that the birth of new brain cells, called neurogenesis, was observed in the hippocampus in the rat brain. Even then, scientists were skeptical that neurogenesis happened in humans. It wasnt until the 1990s that neurogenesis was confirmed in the brains of humans, other primates, and several species. There are a number of behavioral, environmental, pharmacological and biochemical factors that affect this process, many of which you have the power to influence.
Break Out Of Your Daily Routine
Studies have found that frequently changing your daily routine, even in the slightest way, can help energize your brain and improve your efficiency and productivity when you study. Take a different route to and from university, try shopping somewhere new, or even challenge yourself by closing your eyes when unlocking the door. Aim to be surprised at least once every day.
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It Decreases Feelings Of Anxiety
Studies have shown that every time your move your body, a number of beneficial neurotransmitters, including dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and acetylcholine, gets released into your brain.
These substances can .
It only takes between 10 and 30 minutes of daily physical activity to instantly life your mood. No gym membership? Take a short walk, or use the stairs instead of the elevator.
When I’m crunched for time, I’ll simply pace a few laps around my dining room table.
Nerve Cells Do Not Renew Themselves
Your skin cells keep dividing, they die and give birth to new cells all the time, even when youre not injured. After an injury, the skin makes a bunch of new cells and uses them to heal your wound. Yet, nerve cells in your brain, also called neurons, do not renew themselves. They do not divide at all. There are very few exceptions to this rule only two special places in the brain can give birth to new neurons. For the most part though, the brain cannot replenish dead neurons. This is especially worrisome because neurons are very sensitive cells and they die for all sorts of reasons. When you bump your head and suffer a concussion, neurons die. When there is a glitch in the blood supply to the brain, also called a stroke, neurons die. Neurons also die when faced with changes in their own functions, which happens in the so-called neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinsons disease and Alzheimers disease.
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How To: Grow Your Own Brain Cells
Chief Data Scientist Bestselling Author SuperDataScience Host
In what the New York Times called the most profound brain-related finding of the 1990s , the understanding of the growth of new brain cells has flourished this millennium. Here I explore how new brain cell growth, or neurogenesis, can be influenced and whether such influence — with exercise, sleep, diet, drugs, or stress — has an impact, positive or negative.
There are two parts of the adult mammalian brain that host neurogenesis. The first is the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure near the centre of the brain that’s key to memory storage and spatial navigation. The second is in the olfactory system, i.e., the sensory system that enables smell. In this post, I focus on the hippocampus alone because its functions are more integral components of being human than olfaction.
Forget The Puzzles Games And Mental Exercises There’s An Easier Way To Boost Your Brainpower
Sure, exercise is good for your health. We all know that. But exercise is also a scientifically proven way to make yourself smarter.
According to Gretchen Reynolds, author of the soon to be released The First 20 Minutes, a book about the science of exercise, recent research shows that exercise can help your brain resist physical shrinkage and improve cognitive flexibility.
“Exercise,” she writes in this New York Times article, “…does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.”
Here’s why. Your brain is a tissue and so like any other tissue, abuse, lack of use, and especially age causes its performance to decline. Sometime in our late twenties the hippocampus, the portion of our brains devoted to learning and memory, loses about a percent per year in total volume. So it’s no surprise that as we get older we naturally lose some of our memory and learning capacity.
But what is surprising is that, just like with your muscles, exercise can slow or even reverse the physical decay of your brain.
While you may have been told that once you lose brain cells you can never get them back, new brain cells can be created- and exercise helps trigger that process. By exercising you not only build muscle. You build a bigger brain.
Exercise also makes those new brain cells more effective. According to Reynolds,
So don’t take a walk at lunch just to clear your head.
Take that walk to get smarter, too.
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Mapping New Memories In Fish
Previously, researchers focused on recording the electrical signals produced by neurons. While these studies have confirmed that neurons change their response to particular stimuli after a memory is formed, they couldnt pinpoint what drives those changes.
To study how the brain physically changes when it forms a new memory, we created 3D maps of the synapses of zebrafish before and after memory formation. We chose zebrafish as our test subjects because they are large enough to have brains that function like those of people, but small and transparent enough to offer a window into the living brain.
To induce a new memory in the fish, we used a type of learning process called classical conditioning. This involves exposing an animal to two different types of stimuli simultaneously: a neutral one that doesnt provoke a reaction and an unpleasant one that the animal tries to avoid. When these two stimuli are paired together enough times, the animal responds to the neutral stimulus as if it were the unpleasant stimulus, indicating that it has made an associative memory tying these stimuli together.
As an unpleasant stimulus, we gently heated the fishs head with an infrared laser. When the fish flicked its tail, we took that as an indication that it wanted to escape. When the fish is then exposed to a neutral stimulus, a light turning on, tail flicking meant that its recalling what happened when it previously encountered the unpleasant stimulus.
Bdnf And Synaptic Plasticity
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF is a protein produced inside your nerve cells to help your brain to communicate and function properly. It protects neurons, encourages their growth, improves their functions, and helps them to survive by protecting them from premature cell death. It also strengthens the signal between neurons by binding to the receptors at the synapses.
BDNF is essential for optimal brain function and a key player in brain regeneration. It plays an important role in learning and memory. It regulates various body functions, including eating and drinking.
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What Happens To The Brain In Alzheimer’s Disease
The healthy human brain contains tens of billions of neuronsspecialized cells that process and transmit information via electrical and chemical signals. They send messages between different parts of the brain, and from the brain to the muscles and organs of the body. Alzheimers disease disrupts this communication among neurons, resulting in loss of function and cell death.
The Architecture Of The Neuron
The central nervous system is made up of two basic types of cells: neurons and glia & . Glia outnumber neurons in some parts of the brain, but neurons are the key players in the brain.
Neurons are information messengers. They use electrical impulses and chemical signals to transmit information between different areas of the brain, and between the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Everything we think and feel and do would be impossible without the work of neurons and their support cells, the glial cells called astrocytes and oligodendrocytes .
Neurons have three basic parts: a cell body and two extensions called an axon and a dendrite . Within the cell body is a nucleus , which controls the cells activities and contains the cells genetic material. The axon looks like a long tail and transmits messages from the cell. Dendrites look like the branches of a tree and receive messages for the cell. Neurons communicate with each other by sending chemicals, called neurotransmitters, across a tiny space, called a synapse, between the axons and dendrites of adjacent neurons.
There are three classes of neurons:
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New Brain Cells Made Throughout Life
Health and science correspondent, BBC News
People keep making new brain cells throughout their lives , according to a study on human brains.
The idea has been fiercely debated, and it used to be thought we were born with all the brain cells we will ever have.
The researchers at the University of Madrid also showed that the number of new brain cells tailed off with age.
And it falls dramatically in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – giving new ideas for treating the dementia.
Most of our neurons – brain cells that send electrical signals – are indeed in place by the time we are born.
Studies on other mammals have found new brains cells forming later in life, but the extent of “neurogenesis” in the human brain is still a source of debate.
The study, looked at the brains of 58 deceased people who were aged between 43 and 97.
The focus was on the hippocampus – a part of the brain involved in memory and emotion. It is the part of the brain that you need, to remember where you parked the car.
Brain Cell Regeneration: Take The Next Step
Until recently, it was believed that growing new brain cells was impossible once you reached adulthood.
But its now known that the brain constantly regenerates its supply of brain cells and that there is much that you can do to stimulate the process.
While literally everyone can benefit from growing more brain cells, it is of particular importance if you have certain psychiatric or neurological conditions.
Every day, give both your brain and body a good workout, get adequate sleep, and eat foods that promote growth factors like BDNF and NGF.
Additionally, you can experiment with various supplements that promote brain cell regeneration.
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Harness Your Brains Reward System
Dopamine functions as a survival mechanism by releasing energy when a great opportunity presents itself to you.
Dopamine rewards us when our needs are met.
We love dopamine surges because of the way they make us feel.
But the constant hunt for your next dopamine boost can turn you into a wolf on Wall Street, driven by addictions, greed, and lust.
Here are two healthy ways to regulate your dopamine level that work with your brains built-in reward system to improve, rather than ruin, your life.
Enjoy the Quest
Our distant ancestors were engaged in a constant quest just to survive.
They got a dopamine surge every time they spotted a new patch of berries or a better fishing spot because this meant survival.
While you can still pick berries and fish, there are endless other healthy ways you can enjoy the quest of living a modern life.
You can forage for new music to download, specialty ingredients to cook with, a bargain travel package, a hard-to-find collectors item, or that perfect gift for a loved one.
You can engage in quest-oriented hobbies like geocaching, genealogy, bird watching, and collecting of all kinds.
These kinds of hobbies are ideal for keeping up dopamine levels since there is always something new to be discovered.
Each new discovery provides a dopamine boost.
Do the Victory Dance Every Day
Youve watched football players slam the ball and do a victory dance after scoring a touchdown.
The thrill of victory feels sensational!
Brain Cells And The Hippocampus
While the vast majority of our brain’s cells are formed while we are in the womb, there are certain parts of the brain that continue to create new neural cells during infancy. Until recent decades, however, the brains limited capacity to regenerate triggered the belief that neurogenesisthe birth of new brain cellsceased soon after this stage.
However, research done over the last two decades has suggested that at least one part of the brain continues to create new cells throughout a person’s lifespan.
During the late 1990s, researchers at Rockefellers University in New York City conducted studies in which marmoset monkeys were injected with a tracer chemical that could differentiate between slow-dividing mature brain cells and fast-dividing new ones. What they found was that the hippocampus continued to create new cells without the constraint of age or time.
Later studies using carbon-14 dating confirmed that cells in the hippocampus, while continually dying, were quickly replaced by new ones. It is only by the formation of these cells that the hippocampus is able to maintain its central functions.
What it also showed us is that the number of new cells, and the frequency by which they are created, begin to decline with age. With that being said, the rate of decline wasn’t seen to be consistent and could vary significantly from subject to subject.
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Boost Dopamine With Touch And Social Connections
All kinds of pleasurable touch increase dopamine.
A therapeutic massage increases dopamine by 31% while reducing the stress hormone cortisol by an equivalent amount.
Hugging initiates a cascade of beneficial brain chemicals including dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin .
Petting your dog can give both you and your pet a boost of dopamine and a slew of other feel-good brain chemicals.
Its not always possible to get a massage or appropriate to give a hug, but simply having positive social interactions with others increases dopamine no physical contact required.
Nerve Cells Have Trouble Regrowing Damaged Parts
Looking at the structure of a neuron, you will notice it has a cell body and several arms that it uses to connect and talk with other neurons . The really long arm that sends signals to other neurons is called axon, and axons can be really long. If an axon is damaged along its way to another cell, the damaged part of the axon will die , while the neuron itself may survive with a stump for an arm. The problem is neurons in the central nervous system have a hard time regrowing axons from stumps. Why do skin cells not have this problem? Skin cells are much simpler in structure. And because they can give birth to entirely new cells, they dont face the problem of having to repair parts of their cells.
- Figure 1
- Left: the structure of a brain cell. Note the branch-like arms that extend from the cell body . These arms receive incoming signals. The really long arm that extends to the bottom right is called the axon, which sends signals to a receiving cell. The axon is enveloped by a myelin sheath , which helps signals travel faster along the axon to the receiving cell. Right: when an axon gets injured, the end part dies off and leaves an axon stump. Stumps have a hard time to grow back after injury.
So, why do damaged neurons have trouble regrowing axons?
- Figure 2
- Growing axons looking for new target cells to connect with have a hard time in an injury environment. This is partly due to star-shaped support cells , which spit out chemicals . These chemicals stop axon growth.
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The Immune Response In The Brain Is Different From That In Skin
The immune response plays an essential role in any kind of repair after injury. In injured skin, immune cells will rush to the site of injury from the blood and help the resident immune cells clean up debris from dead cells. Once the clean up is done, the immune cells die and stop the fight. The brain has specialized resident immune cells as well, and they will become activated when they sense danger or damage. A common problem in the brain is that the activated immune cells often dont know when to stop fighting. If they continue to spit out toxic chemicals over long periods, they can cause more harm than good, by killing healthy neurons. This is why scientists are trying to understand what switches brain immune cells on and off and trying to figure out how they can modify the response of these immune cells, so the cells can be helpful rather than harmful .