Is the adult brain capable of regenerating new cells? Most people will tell you the brain gets even worse as they get older.
Well, this is not entirely true as the brain grows new cells throughout your entire lifetime. Although heavy alcohol and aging have been shown to worsen the health of the brain, there is a lot more that happens to the brain we need to understand. People who drink alcohol excessively might affect the function of their brain, but then there is a lot more on how the brain works.
Over the years, people have believed that the brain grows once and dies with age. However, you will be surprised to learn that the brain does regenerate and replace the damaged or dead cells.
This was first discovered by the duo of American Fred Gage and Swedish Peter Erikson. These two were able to show how the human brain is capable of regenerating new cells throughout the life of an individual.
Neurons are usually produced by the stem cells with most of them being produced when the child is still in the mother’s womb. However, after birth, the process of producing new stem cells is taken over by two restricted areas.
The development of neurogenesis and adult neurogenesis differ greatly. In this article, we will only discuss neurogenesis in the adult which for a long time has been thought to be impossible.
The two regions where neurogenesis has been found to occur in adults are:
This is a seahorse-shaped structure that is found just above the ears. It is located in the temporal lobe of the brain and plays an important role in learning, regulating emotions, even the formation of memory and spatial navigation.
In the hippocampus, neurons are formed in the subgranular zone which is part of the dentate gyrus. In newborn babies, neurons from the dentate gyrus die shortly after birth with a few being integrated into the brain, unlike adults. In adults, over 700 new neurons are added to the hippocampus part of the brain every day. However, the function of these nascent neurons remains controversial.
The Olfactory bulb is a structure located in the forebrain and one that plays an important role in the sense of smell. However, few neurons are formed in the olfactory bulb in humans compared to other mammals.
Our main concern shall be on the hippocampus part of the brain. Studies have shown a link between depression and the production of new brain cells (neurogenesis).
Neurogenesis is the birth or production of neurons. Neurons are generated from the neural stem cells that occur in the brain contrary to popular belief. The hippocampus has been associated with various mental issues in humans.
People with Alzheimer’s have the hippocampus as the first area in the brain to be affected. Several other mental disorders in humans have been associated with the hippocampus.
How To Affect Neurogenesis
Is it possible for humans to heal their brains? This is a question that has raised a lot of curiosity with the discovery of neurogenesis in adult individuals. Is there a way we can directly encourage the development of new neurons in our brain? Several research studies have been done to find out new ways to improve the regeneration of new brains cells in humans.
Production of new brain cells means improved memory, mood, and learning skills. The latest studies have confirmed that neurogenesis can be improved if people pay attention to the following:
Restriction Of Our Caloric Intake
What we eat goes a long way in deciding who become. The old saying that says “you are what you eat” makes perfect sense. What we consume determines our level of fitness and whether we will add weight or lose weight. However, the foods we consume on a daily basis can also go a long way in deciding our mental state.
Diet affects the formation of the adult human brain and the generation of new blood cells. According to a study done by Sandrine Thuret and Doris Stangl in the year 2009, diet impacts the process of neurogenesis in adult humans at four levels.
These four levels are:
- Meal content
- Meal texture
- Calorie restriction
- Meal frequency
Reducing our caloric intake has been shown to increase the production of new neurons while reducing the risks of neurological diseases like Parkinsons and Alzheimer’s.
Individuals with a caloric restriction have also been found to have a longer lifespan. Experiments done on rodents have shown that a caloric reduction of 50-70% can easily be achieved with what we now call intermittent fasting.
There are even weight loss programs that have incorporated this technique of eat-fast-eat to cut down the net caloric consumption. If you can’t cut your caloric intake, extending the times between your meals can help promote neurogenesis.
There is research going on by Japanese scientists who have shown that hard foods that require a lot of chewing do improve neurogenesis. Go ahead and cut your caloric intake by 50-70% to start to improve the process of regenerating new brain cells today.
Consumption Of A Low-Fat Diet
The type and proportion of fats in your diet also play a crucial role in the regeneration of new brain cells in our bodies. It is not just the caloric intake that is important. Diets rich in saturated fats have been shown to greatly reduce the process of neurogenesis in our bodies.
Laboratory tests have shown a huge reduction in the number of newly formed brain cells where there is an increase of saturated fats in our bodies. Saturated fats include palm oil, coconut oil, and animal fat products. Various studies have shown a correlation between diminished neurogenesis and a diet rich in saturated fats in humans.
Decreased neurogenesis leads to depression and anxiety in the individual. Too much cheese, bacon, and butter in our diets is not good for our health. It not only leads to cardiovascular diseases and obesity but can also damage our brains.
However, not all fats are bad as there are healthy fats which have been shown to promote the formation of new brains cells. The Omega-3-fatty acids from salmon, tuna, and flaxseed have been shown to promote neurogenesis.
Further studies have shown how the omega-3 fatty acids can help treat age-related memory loss in the hippocampus. Including omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can go a long way in maintaining your mental health. This can further be reinforced by consuming certain dietary supplements like the flavonoids that can be found in cocoa and blueberries.
Other good supplements include:
- Curcumin found in turmeric spice
- Resveratrol found in red wine
So you could treat yourself to a glass of red wine once in a while or a bowl of yellow curry. A bite of chocolate once in a while can give you flavonoids that further boost the formation of new brain cells.
Perform Some Aerobic Exercise
Performing aerobic exercise not only improves your general health and fitness levels but also boosts your brain. Studies that were published in the 2006 Journal of Physiology and Physical Exercises have shown that sustained aerobic training enhances neurogenesis. However, the effects of anaerobic exercises were found not to improve the formation of new brain cells even though they helped in fitness.
The High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that seems to work wonders in getting people fit for short periods of time only showed a minimal increase in neurogenesis. This can be attributed to the stress caused by the exercises that tend to reduce neurogenesis. It is worth noting that although most of these studies have only been done on animals, experts believe they have a similar impact on humans.
Neuroscientist and Professor of Neural Science and Physiology Dr. Wendy Suzuki at the New York University shows how aerobic exercises help improve learning and memory. She has even written a book, “Happy Brain, Happy Life” where she talks about the connection between exercise and the ability of the brain to function better.
Several factors have been shown to affect the normal process of neurogenesis in humans leading to deterioration of our mental health early in life. Some of the common causes of poor mental health are chronic sleep deprivation and stress.
People with stress and chronic sleep deprivation inhibit the capability of their brain to regenerate leading to deterioration of the cognitive functions of the body. Trauma from pregnancy and stress in the early life of young adults can affect the formation of new brain cells and affect the mental health of such individuals.
How To Regenerate New Brain Cells For Adults Verdict
Ever found yourself blaming genetics or the education system for your problems? Well, that is not the case as we all need a perfectly functioning brain to perform well in life.
Next time you want to blame your genetics, education or someone for your problems, take another look at what might be hindering your brain from functioning well. Do not rush for medications to solve your mental health issues when the problem is probably with your diet or lack of sleep.
Be in control of your life by first taking control of your body. It is a great feeling knowing we can improve how our brain functions. Deliver enough oxygen and the right nutrients to your brain cells to experience the benefits that come with regeneration of new brain cells.