Posted March 21, 2017
Can brain cells continue to grow as you age? Yes! For years, scientists believed people used the same brain cells throughout life. However, researchers affiliated with Harvard Medical School discovered that adults could develop new cells to enhance brain function.
Scientists report that most of our brain cells, called neurons, are formed before birth. Then as infants, certain areas of the brain continue to create new cells, a process called neurogenesis.
Studies show that brain cells continually die as part of the natural aging process. The loss of brain cells can create memory gaps, which impacts your ability to recall old information, remember new details, or keep from mixing up the two.
In 2013, researchers discovered that older adults could produce about 700 new neurons daily in the hippocampus region, the area of the brain that coordinates learning, keeps long-term memory and controls emotions.
Medical professionals are focusing on ways to boost the development of neurons, which they believe can:
- Assist in defending the brain against Alzheimer’s
- Help with depression, which slows the development of new cells and can shrink the hippocampus by 10 percent
- Enhance memory and attitude
Boost brain power
Consider three ways to stimulate neurogenesis:
- More exercise – Set aside time for regular aerobic exercise each week, such as power walking, swimming or jogging. Adult male rats that routinely ran on a wheel for eight weeks developed more neurons in their hippocampuses than those that did not.
- Less stress, less food – Activities that lower stress and provide pleasure encourage the creation of new brain cells. Less calories and snacking, but more dark chocolate, blueberries and salmon, also can help.
- More brain games – Stimulate the brain with activities that require concentration and thinking, such as playing 3D video games or performing tasks with your non-dominant hand.