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Feed Your Head: Harnessing Neurogenesis

By Sam Gandy on Monday, 24 February 2014, hits: 28382

 

The human brain contains around 86 billion neurons, and 86 trillion connections between these neurons. That is more connections than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy, or galaxies in the known universe. The human brain is one of the most complex and wondrous things we know of, and is the product over three and half billion years of evolution.

There is much we can do to look after our brain, and by doing so we in effect are taking very good care of ourselves. A healthy brain is essential for a healthy happy life. One way we can boost our brain is by increasing its natural inbuilt capacity for neurogenesis.

Neurogenesis is the birth of new neurons from neural stem or progenitor cells in the brain. It was long considered that the number of neurons was fixed and they did not replicate after maturity of the brain. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that neurogenesis was observed in the brains of humans, other primates and a number of other species that led to its widespread scientific acceptance. This area is an example of a complete scientific turn around.

There are a number of behavioural, environmental, pharmacological and biochemical factors that affect this process, many of which we have considerable power to influence. Neurogenesis is also linked to changes in neuroplasticity, which is referring to changes in synapses and neural pathways in the brain.

Neurogenesis has been found to occur in two brain regions; the subventricular zone and the hippocampus.

The hippocampus plays a key role in learning and memory, and alterations have been linked to a variety of cognitive pathologies such as anxiety, depression, addiction and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. A reduction in hippocampus volume has been observed in patients with depression and other cognitive disorders. Neurogenesis declines with age, but as will be discussed there are a number of things than can be done to remedy this.

In this article I will cover a wide array of things we can do and things we can consume to boost our brains and enhance this amazing process.

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