Can adult humans grow new neurons naturally?
Until very recently, most scientists believed it was not possible. A recent study at the Karolinska Institutet in sweden believes otherwise and have recently shown that the process of neurogenesis can be controlled and monitored naturally helping our brain to reverse damage and provide relief for patients with degenerative neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MND, ALS or for traumatic events like TBI and Brain Strokes.
It is estimated that our brain generates only 700 -1000 neurons per day. The neuron cells are produced in 3 distinct areas of the brain including the hippocampus, subventricular zone and dentate gyrus which is responsible for the process of learning and memory. Humans are born with hundreds of billions of neural cells and it would take us hundreds of years to create enough cells naturally to replace the amount we were born with.
New Brain Cells in a Lifetime
It is estimated that we are born with nearly 100 billion neural cells in our spine and brain region. By around age of 3 neurogenesis seems to disappears in all regions with the exception of hippocampal neurogenesis. It is thought that perhaps during evolution our DNA traded its capacity to regenerate new motor cells & brain cells for the stability of our existing brain cells.
How to Control Adult Neurogenesis?
Generally neural cell replacement therapy requires neural cell transplants with progenitors that help give rise to new neuron cells from differentiated astrocytes or oligodendrocytes. A recent ted talk discussed other more natural ways for us to generate new brain cells using a combination of diet and exercise as the foundation of natural neural cell proliferation.
Natural ways to increase Neurogenesis include:
- Intermittent fasting between meals along with calorie restriction diet 20-30% less than average intake.
- Regular intake of flavonoids compounds that are found in blueberries and dark chocolate
- Regular intake Omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fatty fish such as salmon
- Aerobic and cardiovascular exercise
Habits that inhibit and have a negative impact on Neurogenesis include:
- Diets rich in saturated fat and sugars
- Ethanol and frequent intake of alcohol ( excluding resveratrol found in red wine)
- Sedentary lifestyle and lack of regular exercise
- Deficiency in Vitamins A,B or D
- Regular Stress, lack of proper sleep, and the natural aging process also have negative impacts
The potential for us to harness the natural neurogenic processes for therapeutic interventions and regenerative medicine may one day allow us the ability of a “reset switch” helping reverse degenerative diseases or enhance the overall quality of life by allowing our brains to continually grow late into adulthood.