Growing new brain cells (neurogenesis) is possible… even as an adult.
But let me state up front that if your overall diet and lifestyle is poor, the methods of neurogenesis stated below will do virtually nothing for you. There will be zero benefits.
Neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret says that we can, in fact, grow new brain cells which include improving memory and mood.
As researchers somewhat understated in 2005: “the discovery that the adult mammalian brain creates new neurons from pools of stem-like cells was a breakthrough in neuroscience”.
There are many different regions of the human brain. Neurogenesis is what the process of new brain cell development is called.
It is most active during pre-natal development but there are two parts of the human brain, so far, where this process has been shown to continue into adulthood.
These two regions are named the hippocampus and the sub ventricular zone. While further research may show other regions demonstrate neurogenesis, the science has yet to articulate any such developments.
Joseph Altman must be given credit for his groundbreaking work in the field of neurogenesis, with important discoveries happening in both 1962 and 1963. Altman’s work was largely and uniformly ignored, which was preposterous.
It took until the 1990s for mainstream research to finally start to regard neurogenesis as a priority and possibility. Obviously, there is the likely possibility that learning and memory would be important related brain functions that may be affected by neurogenesis.
Besides learning and memory, some supposed and likely neuronal effects are found in the regulation of stress and also in the beneficial mechanisms of some antidepressants.
Besides these functions, neurogenesis shows promise in the areas of depression, as well as Alzheimer’s.
How to Improve Brain Function
Besides neurogenesis, there is also a process called autophagy which gets turned on when human beings fast. Autophagy is loosely described as the process of cells cleaning house and getting rid of junk.
Theoretically, you can see how this may be beneficial to improved cellular and neuronal firing. But besides exercise and fasting, there are a few other elements that can help to grow new brain cells.
It should come as no surprise to the Paleo community that there are benefits to omega-3 fatty acids. As I’ve written about many times, docosahexaenoic acid is preferable over all other forms of omega-3s.
Unsurprisingly, the scientific literature shows that DHA helps to support neurogenesis. There are many other reasons why you may want to supplement with DHA, or obtain large amounts from daily intake of wild-caught fish, but the specific neurological effects of DHA are intriguing.
Blueberries are another beneficial food that can be linked to neurogenesis. As this study on diet’s impact on neurogenesis indicates, the flavonoids in blueberries are advantageous.
Since the link between increased neurogenesis and increased mood and cognition is obvious, it makes sense to regularly include blueberries in your diet.
Not only will you be enjoying the cognitive effects of the food, but you will be indulging your taste buds and getting the inherent antioxidant effects as well.