Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Neurogenesis and How Learning Saves Your Neurons

Jon Barron’s blog high­light­ed this recent press release from The Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science.

For decades, it was believed that the adult brain did not pro­duce new neu­rons after birth. But that notion has been dis­pelled by research in the last ten years. It became clear by the mid- to late-1990’s that the brain does, in fact, pro­duce new neu­rons through­out the lifes­pan.

This phe­nom­e­non, known as neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis, occurs in most species, includ­ing humans, but the degree to which it occurs and the extent to which it occurs is still a mat­ter of some con­tro­ver­sy, says Tracey Shors, PhD, at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty.

How­ev­er, there is no ques­tion that neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis occurs in the hip­pocam­pus, a brain region involved in aspects of learn­ing and mem­o­ry. Thou­sands of new cells are pro­duced there each day, although many die with weeks of their birth.” Shors’ recent stud­ies have shown a cor­re­la­tion in ani­mal mod­els between learn­ing and cell sur­vival in the hip­pocam­pus.

Hip­pocam­pal-Depen­dent Learn­ing

The hip­pocam­pus plays a crit­i­cal roles in cer­tain types of mem­o­ry: The Limbic System con­sol­i­da­tion of new mem­o­ries, spa­tial mem­o­ry, and nav­i­ga­tion. Fur­ther­more, the hip­pocam­pus appears to influ­ence not only atten­tion and learn­ing, but also dis­crim­i­na­tion in deter­min­ing when it is appro­pri­ate to learn one thing or anoth­er and, con­se­quent­ly, inhibit­ing extra­ne­ous asso­ci­a­tions while allow­ing mean­ing­ful asso­ci­a­tions to form.

The Learn­ing Effect

It is clear that learn­ing can enhance the pres­ence of new neu­rons in the adult brain,” says Shors, imply­ing a “use it or lose it” phe­nom­e­non. “I want to stress that the cells that are res­cued from death by learn­ing were born before the learn­ing expe­ri­ence. It is not the case, at least as far as we can tell, that learn­ing pro­duces more cells,” she says. Rather, their data indi­cate that the cells that were already there at the time of the train­ing expe­ri­ence are affect­ed by learn­ing and there­by res­cued from death.

“I am often asked whether learn­ing and oth­er cog­ni­tive activ­i­ties will help pre­vent a decrease in neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis or even the onset of dis­eases such as Alzheimer’s,” she says. “It seems pru­dent to assume so until we know dif­fer­ent.”

Fred Gage, PhD at the Salk Insti­tute shows us that using your brain is the best way to opti­mize your brain func­tion:
“In the nat­ur­al course of aging there is cog­ni­tive decline. We know we lose the abil­i­ty to gen­er­ate new neu­rons with age. We are cur­rent­ly try­ing to fig­ure out how gen­er­ate as many neu­rons as pos­si­ble to poten­tial­ly enhance learn­ing or increase the amount of neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis in adults.”

What Can You Do to Help Save Your Neu­rons?

  1. Devel­op a reg­u­lar men­tal work­out plan to match your phys­i­cal work­out.
  2. Eat well.
  3. Get plen­ty of phys­i­cal exer­cise.
  4. Reduce your stress.
  5. Get enough sleep.

Good luck!

Leave a Reply...

Loading Facebook Comments ...

10 Responses

  1. Pat Prioleau says:

    Well done blog. We will work on using all the method­ol­o­gy!

  2. Caroline says:

    Glad you guys enjoyed the post- let us know how your work goes!!

  3. Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis is a fas­ci­nat­ing area of neu­ro­science. Anoth­er fac­tor that war­rants men­tion as a stim­u­la­tor of neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis is exer­cise. Sev­er­al stud­ies have shown that reg­u­lar exer­cise increas­es the rate of neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis in the hip­pocam­pus. In fact, exer­cise appears to do this by acti­vat­ing growth fac­tor sys­tems sim­il­iar to those acti­vat­ed by anti­de­pres­sant med­ica­tions, which have also been shown to increase hip­pocam­pal neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. Cou­pling reg­u­lar phys­i­cal exer­cise with the mind chal­leng­ing exer­cis­es that you sug­gest are like­ly to mut­li­ply the pos­i­tive effects.

  4. Caroline says:

    Agreed! Phys­i­cal exer­cise is indeed impor­tant for increas­ing blood flow to the brain, increas­ing nerve growth fac­tor (NGF), and reduc­ing cor­ti­sol pro­duced by stress. All four of the pil­lars list­ed below play a role in keep­ing your cog­ni­tive skills func­tion­ing:

    1) Phys­i­cal Exer­cise
    2) Brain Exer­cise
    3) Nutri­tion
    4) Stress Reduc­tion

Leave a Reply

Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness, Peak Performance, Professional Development, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

Follow us and Engage via…

RSS Feed

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives