It was previously thought that brain cell creation stops once we reach adulthood, but exciting new developments show that brain cells continue to regenerate thought your adult life. Not only is neurogenesis possible, but researchers have identified methods you can use to actively promote new brain cell growth.
All the original neurons in your brain will be replaced by the time you turn 50. Adult neurogenesis was initially thought to occur only the striatum and the hippocampus, but there is evidence that suggests brain cells can grow in other parts of the brain like the hypothalamus, the amygdala, and maybe even the cerebral cortex.
Many neurotransmitters are involved in adult neurogenesis, but the most important chemicals for inducing brain cell regeneration are the nerve growth factor (NGF) and the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
BDNF has been called “Miracle-Gro” for the brain because it encourages growth through a variety of mechanisms. NGF has the power to protect nerve cells and stimulate the growth of new cells in the nervous system and the brain.
Why Neurogenesis Is Important
We can all benefit from more brain cells, and things like stress can lead to a decrease in BDNF, making regeneration especially important.
Dysfunctional neurogenesis and abnormal levels of BDNF and NFG have also been linked to a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders like stroke, epilepsy, brain tumors, Alzheimer’s, depressions, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD disorder and many more.
How to Boost Brain Cell Production with Diet
Researchers have discovered that diet affects brain cell regeneration. Eating less often and eating fewer calories can increase neurogenesis by increasing BDNF and decreasing inflammation. These benefits can be achieved by practicing intermittent fasting, where you restrict eating times to certain eating windows.
It has also been found that foods that make you chew more vigorously can increase brain cell formation. An increase in Omega-3 fatty acids can help promote new neuron growth. And while fats are essential for a healthy brain, diets that contain high levels of saturated fat can impede neurogenesis.
Flavonoids, the potent antioxidant found in blueberries, green tea, and cocoa are very effective at promoting the formation of brain cells. And curcumin, the main component in the spice turmeric can increase BDNF and stimulate cell growth in the hippocampus.
Staying Mentally Active to Grow New Brain Cells
It turns out London cab drivers have been able to boost neurogenesis with mental workouts. Using MRIs, researchers found that cabbies who give their brain a super workout with street memorization have a significantly larger hippocampus than non-taxi drivers in London.
Fortunately, you don’t have to memorize 30,000 streets to pump-up your hippocampus. Challenging your brain with any new complex information can help stimulate new brain cells.
Sleep and Brain Cell Regeneration
Getting regular restful sleep is one of the best things you can do for your mental well-being and brain health. Sleeping clears away debris and helps the brain repair, reorganize, and grow new brain cells.
While the occasional sleepless night doesn’t affect brain cell regeneration, chronic lack of sleep has the power to stop the formation of new brain cells. So, make sure to get your rest.
Not very long ago we thought that new brain cell growth didn’t occur after we reached adulthood, but now we know that the brain constantly regenerates itself. There is a lot you can do to stimulate the process, and while it can benefit everyone, those with neurological or psychiatric conditions can get the greatest benefit from neurogenesis.
If you want to make the most of your brain power, take the time to give your body and your mind regular workouts, get enough sleep, and eat healthy foods that promote growth factors like NGF and BDNF. Take care of your brain and it will take care of you.