A Lose-Lose Situation Reverses?:
So for the longest time now, Science has painted a pretty static picture.
You get what you get when you’re young, you have your early experiences, and after about 18-25, that’s it, right?
Well teams of researchers around the globe including Sandrine Thuret, are finding out some very interesting things about the adult brain.
And they are NOT just about age-related decline, or getting stuck with 1 fixed situation.
Yes You Can Change!:
In-fact, people’s brain-maps are changeable over time,
And most astonishingly, research from many of her colleagues shows you can actually Improve it,
Not just by taking all kinds of fancy Daniel Amen stuff, or playing games at Lumosity.com, but by doing something science has said was impossible for a long time.
Growing new freaking brain cells, baby!…
So in this TED video, Sandrine goes on to discuss exactly that:
Old Misconceptions Get Rewritten:
Part of the answer is that Science has said No for a long time, and since the part of study directed toward neurogenesis is so new, there are some persistent misconceptions. -Even among doctors.
Her own experience with this started with a strange coincidence.
She goes on to tell a story about talking with one of her colleagues who was mystified at a medical phenomenon.
He said that many of his patients who went through treatment & were cured of cancer still developed depression after that huge personal victory.
How Can You Be Depressed After Defeating The Biggest Enemy?:
She said from her perspective that makes perfect sense, as the drugs they give the patients to stop the cancer cells from mutiplying also stop the new brain-cells from being generated, too.
He then came back with the standard scientific wisdom that adults do not grow new brain-cells.
And just like all the doctors that “knew” that to be true, he was surprised when Sandrine told him that adults Actually Do!
This is all thanks to some fairly new studies.
The Center Of The Brain Is The Center Of Focus:
When Sandrine took her friend over to the lab, the first thing she told him about was the main target of research when it comes to these new studies.
–The Hippocampus; which is the center of memory in our brain, very important to learning, but also has an oddly-coincidental affect on both Mood & Emotion,
And the really important part about it is science has recently found it may be the ground-zero location in the brain for neurogenesis.
As a result of the studies, you can actually see these new neurons if you put the HC under a microscope.
You Can See Them Growing, 700 A Day:
According to fellow researcher Jonas Frisen from the Karolinska Institute, there are an average of 700 new neurons born in the adult brain’s HC every single day.
Even more surprisingly than that, 700 may not seem like much because of the 100 Billion total the brain has.
But believe it or not, due to the high levels of activity found there, by the age of 50 the average person will have exchanged every single brain-cell they were born with in the HC, with ones generated as adults!
-How’s that for some freaking neurogenesis!
So What Does This Part Of The Brain Actually Do?:
1. It’s important for Learning & Memory.
*Researchers know this because if they block cell-formation, certain memory abilities are also blocked.
1a. This is also true for Navigation and recognition of New Spatial Environments.
2. More-interestingly, it’s also important for the Quality of Memory, not just Total Capacity.
2b. For example: It helps differentiate memories in time and also tell the difference between similar things that could otherwise be confused.
Bad Neurogenesis=Bad Mood:
And just like she was describing to her colleague, another area of importance is the role of neurogenesis in mood-disorders like Depression.
Science has recently discovered that people who suffer from it have a low level of neurogenesis.
As you’ll see later, this is not helped by the fact that Depression is associated with some behaviors that also reduce neurogenesis.
Contrary to the traditional “knowledge” that the benefit of anti-depressants comes only from fixing chemical imbalances in the brain, if they give people antidepressants, it has been shown to increase the production of new brain-cells.
Anti-Depressants Win By Growing Your Brain:
As as a result of this, the symptoms of depression are reduced, establishing the possibility that neurogenesis might even be the entire fix for Depression.
Another way of verifying this was experiments that showed if you give people antidepressants but then something else to block neurogenesis, the positive results go away.
So bringing that around to the beginning of her story, for Dr. Robert’s patients it would probably take a long time to get back to normal.
6) Omega 3s
9) Crunchy Food
How Fast Do Anti-Depressants Make Your Brain-Powers Grow?:
But the interesting part of this not addressed in the video is: Is the rate of neurogenesis Higher Than 700/day if you put someone on anti-depressants?
-Now THAT’s an experiment they should do.
The other part that makes it interesting is that anti-depressants are reported to also create an environment where new brain-cells will not just be Created,
but also Survive; since this is not always the case.
One of the main triggers for that part of the equation is new learning & experiences.
Education & Novelty = Neurogenesis:
(by the way, is this one more stealthy reason that people who spend their money on Experiences instead of Things end-up happier?)
So now we have enough to say increasing neurogenesis is a great idea if we want to improve memory and mood, or even prevent age-related decline.
And the next question becomes: Short of taking anti-depressants, can we actually do anything else to make it happen?
YES WE CAN!
And now, we get to the real money part of things.
2 Lists of Things That Increase or Decrease Neurogenesis:
(and just like her chat with Dr. Robert, they’ll also positively or negatively affect Memory & Mood)
Activities & Inputs That -Increase- Neurogenesis:
2) Sex (not so much that it causes sleep-deprivation!)
3) Running (maybe 10x+ the rate of sedentary subjects)
3) 20-30% Calorie-Restriction
5) Flavonoid Intake (of foods like Blueberries, Red Grapes, Dark Chocolate)
6) Omega 3 Intake (either through fish, or supplement-oils)
7) Resveratrol (so Drinking Red Wine may be neutral)
9) Crunchy Food Intake (weird Japan again!)
Activities & Inputs That -Decrease- Neurogenesis:
3) High Saturated-Fat Diets
4) High Sugar Diets
5) Alcohol Intake
6) Deficiencies In Vitamins A, B, or E
7) A Soft Food Diet
*8) Excess Omega 6 Intake [by implication]
*9) [probably Inflammation too]
As far as Exercise goes, we don’t know yet if it’s only Running, because that’s the only thing that was studied.
-But it does make sense that increased circulation & oxygen-flow from any aerobic exercise should help. Official details TBD.
Now before you go out to Costco & buy a small blueberry-farm, here’s an interesting thought:
What About Fixing Prior Stress+Sleep-Based Damage?:
This collection of work probably also means, even though Sandrine never said it outright, that if you’ve ever experienced any of the factors that decrease neurogenesis, like Stress, Anxiety or Depression,
There is a big likelihood that You Actually Need to Rebuild Your Brain!
*Furthermore: You may even need to start doing something every day just to maintain the losses you incur from the unavoidable negatives in life; -just as a part of your daily upkeep routine!
Check out the Links & stay brainy my friends!:
Photo/Video Credits: Video by TED, Photo “Uttarayan (Explored)”, by Bhavishya Goel
• Source: TED-You Can Grow New Brain Cells
• More Coverage: Dietary Modulation of brain plasticity:
Implications for Mental Health [PDF] | Dr. Sandrine’s Lab
• Source Study: GeneNutr.-Impact of diet on adult hippocampal neurogenesis