The medical community once believed that the brain of an adult can no longer generate new brain cells and the regeneration of these cells called neurons seem to only occur in younger people. Fortunately, that’s not the case.
Neurons are indeed proliferated early in life and their regeneration slowed significantly with age. Hence, a smaller number of neurons regenerate as we get older. According to Jonas Frisen of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, the hippocampus of the adult brain produces about 700 neurons per day.
That is an extremely small number considering that the human brain is made up of billions of neurons.
Dr. Sandrine Thuret, a lecturer and senior researcher in stem cells at King’s College London said in her TED speech that neurons produced when we were younger will be replaced with neurons produced when we were old.
“When we are half a year old, the neurons that are born in our hippocampus will be completely replaced with the neurons produced in adulthood.”
The regeneration of the neurons might be smaller in the adult brain, but that means we do have the opportunity to improve our brain and promote memory. In this case, we need to direct our attention to two important issues:
- Which of our activities or behaviors that disrupt neuronal regeneration?
- How do we promote neuronal regeneration to improve memory, learning, and mental health?
Studies have shown that depression may slow down the production of neurons and cancer therapy has a significant negative impact on neuronal regeneration. However, these nine lifestyle factors can actually promote the regeneration of neurons:
1. Ample sleep – Sleeping 7 to 8 hours a day can help generate brain cells, but too little sleep can inhibit neuronal production.
2. Take control of stress – Excessive stress response can interfere with the production of nerve cells. Try deep breathing, yoga, or Tai Chi to help you relax.
3. Keep learning – Be it learning a new language or playing a musical instrument, a hobby that makes you learn new things can stimulate the regeneration of the neurons.
Learning is a form of brain exercise.
4. Couple life – Yes, this can help your body to generate new brain cells too.
5. Exercise – Studies found that doing exercise like running can promote neuronal regeneration.
6. Control calorie intake – Studies have also shown that a small intake of calories can promote neuronal production, but avoid malnutrition. One commentary in 2013 stated that “Limiting caloric intake is the only reliable non-genetic intervention that can make a variety of organisms prolong life”.
7. Intermittent fasting – There are few methods to this fasting, but one thing for sure—experts believe that fasting method is better for neuronal regeneration than limiting calorie intake on weekdays.
8. Eat more food for the brain – Eating more flavonoid-rich food like blueberries, dark chocolate, and food rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna is believed to help promote neuronal regeneration.
Meanwhile, high saturated fat and high alcohol diets have the opposite effect. But red wine is an exception as it contains resveratrol—a ‘neutral beverage’ for neuronal regeneration.
9. Chew more – Studies in Japan have shown eating food that needs to be chewed such as crispy food help to regenerate neurons but eating food that is too soft can interfere with neurons regeneration.
Simply by adjusting our lifestyle, it is possible for us to continue generating new brain cells—fighting aging and memory loss, and improving the quality of our lives.
Say yes to a healthier brain and improved memory!
Credit: Epoch Times