It is known that certain experiences and habits kill neurons.
Drinking alcohol, suffering from blows to the head, following an inadequate diet and a long list of other situations all result in a decline in the neural population of our brains, which means that every day we could lose some nerve cells. .
Neurogenesis: the process of neuronal regeneration
However, not all is death and destruction in the daily life of the typical adult human brain: the birth of new neurons also takes place, a phenomenon known as neurogenesis.
Neurogenesis, changing the design of the brain
For many years, it was believed that the human brain is an artefact that develops during the first months of life and, when it reaches adulthood, stops changing. This conception of the brain leaves the door open to believe that the only possible changes in our nervous system are through the death of neurons. Obviously, a person’s brain changes after part of the neocortex is removed, just like it isn’t exactly the same after suffering a small spill.
However, neurogenesis is a sample that the brain continues to form after childhood is left behind. The birth of new cells by neurogenesis, which has been found in an area of a brain structure called the hippocampus and around the lateral ventricles full of cerebrospinal fluid, implies that at any time new neurons can appear which after a few days migrate to other parts of the brain.
What is neurogenesis used for?
Things that happen in the brain at the microscopic level are always very difficult to study, and the phenomenon of neurogenesis is no exception. We do know that new neurons are appearing in adult humans, however we do not know very well in which situations they appear or what they are used for exactly. However, generally speaking, most neuroscientists agree that the birth of new nerve cells plays a role in the brain plasticityIn other words, the brain’s ability to adapt to new experiences and to change over time.
The case of neurogenesis in the hippocampus is of particular interest in this regard. This brain structure acts as a hinge between present experiences and memory, and is therefore fundamental in the formation and learning of memory.
The birth of more neurons in this part of the brain could mean a greater ability to unite the past and the present, that is, being able to better adapt to an environment based on prior knowledge. Since past experiences are predictors of the future, it is adaptive for the hippocampus to always have new neurons ready.
If brain plasticity makes the practically endless combinatorial possibilities with which neurons send signals to each other, neurogenesis adds more carbon to all this succession of changes, because it brings more neurons into play, to some extent offsetting the effects of neuronal death.
In what contexts are new neurons born?
Neurogenesis not only affects the processing of new experiences – it is also subject to the changes the body undergoes in real time. Some situations potentiate the birth of neurons, while others put an end to it. Of course, it is very difficult to define exactly which situations facilitate neurogenesis and which do not, as the infinity of experiences that each of us can have and the individual differences between us greatly complicate this study.
However, in general, it can be said that stress, sedentary lifestyle and sleep deprivation reduce the appearance of neurons, while the practice of voluntary exercise, exposure to cognitive environments and in general them. goal-oriented behaviors improve neurogenesis.
Tips for improving neurogenesis
All of this, translated into everyday life, means that in order to improve the neurogenesis in your hippocampus, you need to:
- sleep well and enough hours not to feel tired the rest of the day.
- Exercise moderately and generally keep boredom at bay. Neurogenesis seems to be geared towards adaptive goals, so try to set realistic goals that you find interesting.
- Don’t expose yourself to more stressors than you can handle and make sure it doesn’t affect you too much. You can try meditation.
These are simple steps that are relatively easy to follow. The complicated processes in your brain will already take care of the.
- Hanson, Nicola D .; Owens, Michael J .; Nemeroff, Charles B. (December 1, 2011). “Depression, antidepressants and neurogenesis: a critical reassessment”. Neuropsychopharmacology (in English).
- Rakic, P (October 2009). “Evolution of the neocortex: a developmental biology perspective.” Nature reviews. Neurosciences.