Do you think that an adult brain can’t be changed?
It is a common belief that once the brain is fully developed it cannot be fixed or changed. This means that new brain cells can’t be formed, so in turn, we can’t change our brain structure.
But, recent neuroscientific studies have proven this wrong. It turns out that, yes, we can alter our (adult) brain because there is still a formation of new neurons in the brain.
In a great TED talk, the neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret reveals that the human brain produces 700 new brain neurons a day in the hippocampus.
For those of you who think that this is not much in comparison to the billions of neurons that we have, consider the fact that by the time you turn 50, the neurons you were born with will be replaced with the adult-born neurons.
Moreover, there is a clear link between neurogenesis (the production of new neurons) and depression.
In a depression mode, there is a lower level of neurogenesis. By taking antidepressants, we increase the production of new neurons thus decreasing the symptoms of depression and improving our mood.
However, if we block the process of neurogenesis, we also block the efficacy of the antidepressant. That’s why many patients who were cured of cancer are still suffering from depression. It’s because the cancer drug had blocked the neurogenesis from happening and it may take some time for the brain to start producing new neurons.
So, it is safe to say that neurogenesis is a matter of choice and we can control it!
If you want to improve your memory function, alleviate your mood, and prevent the decline of neurogenesis that is the result of the aging process and stress, Dr. Thuret says that these things increase the neurogenesis process: learning, sex, running (or any physical activity), calorie restriction of 20-30%, intermittent fasting, intake of flavonoids (dark chocolate, blueberries), omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish: salmon).
On the other hand, these things decrease the neurogenesis process: stress, sleep deprivation, getting older, a diet rich in high saturated fat, and ethanol (alcohol). When it comes to alcohol, it is not all lost. Namely, resveratrol which is contained in red wine helps the new neurons to ‘survive’.
Finally, it is not only what you eat, but the texture of the food you eat also has an impact. Soft food diet impairs neurogenesis as opposed to food that requires a lot of chewing or crunchy food.
Watch her whole TED talk below.