Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF, is a protein that stimulates the production of new brain cells while rewiring the brain to boost cognitive functioning
Among all neurotrophins (a family of proteins that induce the survival, development, and function of neurons), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) stands out for its high level of expression in the brain and its potent effects on synapses. The main function of BDNF in the adult brain is to regulate synapses, with structural and functional effects ranging from short-term to long-lasting in many brain regions, on both excitatory or inhibitory synapses. New research strongly suggests that deficits in BDNF contribute to the pathogenesis of several major diseases and disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. BDNF has also been shown to play a critical role in the pathophysiology of major depression and subsequently in antidepressant treatment. In fact, antidepressant medication promotes increased BDNF activity. Most importantly, BDNF has been proven to possess diagnostic as well as prognostic value in traumatic brain injuries, particularly as it plays a critical role for neuronal survival and regeneration.
How does BDNF actually work?
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor supports differentiation, maturation, and survival of neurons in the nervous system, and shows a neuroprotective effect under adverse conditions such as neurotoxicity and hypoglycemia. BDNF stimulates and controls the growth of new neurons through the process of neurogenesis, while improving cognitive function, learning, and memory. BDNF also has been shown to protect and strengthen brain cells as it results in the activation of different intracellular pathways that lead to neural plasticity, stress resistance, and survival of the cell.
Here are a few ways to help strengthen and boost your brain power through increasing your amount of BDNF:
Stress is perhaps one of the biggest inhibitors of BDNF. Animal studies have shown that stress reduces BDNF expression and activity in the hippocampus. Meditation has been shown to reduce the body’s stress response, and is an effective way to help regulate the amount of cortisol being produced in your body.
Polyphenols, or compounds that are found abundantly in plant food sources that are rich in antioxidant properties, have been proven to stimulate BDNF and protect the brain. A 2013 animal study found that polyphenols increased levels of BDNF. Some polyphenol-rich foods include dark chocolate, vegetables, fruit, olive oil, and green tea.
3. Consume Coffee Fruit
Coffee fruit, or the fruit that encapsulates the coffee bean, has been shown to be incredibly rich in polyphenols. A 2013 study revealed that 100 mg of coffee fruit extract increased BDNF levels by 140%, while another showed that BDNF levels doubled in individuals taking whole coffee fruit extract when compared with those given either regular coffee or a placebo.
So, whether you’re looking to improve your cognitive functioning, seeking to protect yourself from neurological diseases such as Alzheimers, or suffering from a concussion, consider increasing your body’s amount of BDNF.