Did you know that from birth until now, your brain is still changing? Similar to most new findings in modern science, traditional practices have been shown to be correct but only to a certain degree. And this is true of neuroplasticity, defying what we used to think about how our brain processed senses – that every region of the brain was isolated. The traditional assumption of the scientific world was that the brain stagnates and stops growing at a certain point in time (between 21 and 25 years old). However, the process of neurogenesis – in which new neurons are created – actually still continues even in one’s later years of life.
What is Neurogenesis?
Neurons are the individual cells that make up the human brain. They receive and send stimuli through intricate networks, and are responsible for all consciousness, thought and bodily function. Neurogenesis is the generation of nervous tissue. Neural precursor cells (stem cells) create most if not all of the different types of neurons and glia (insulation cells) found in the brain.
Neurogenesis can occur in the hippocampus region of the brain, which is known to play a factor in learning, memory, and emotions. The process by which the neurons develop, however, is up to neuroplasticity.
What is Neuroplasticity?
When the brain is asked to complete a task, it uses certain regions to fulfill that particular task. For example, when I move my hand, the primary motor cortex – the brain region responsible for motor function – and a few other areas would appear to light up on a scan with activity. However, with practice and external stimuli, the brain has the ability to re-map itself so that it can control which areas it primarily uses so as to maximize efficiency. In this example, the motor cortex may light up as well as parts of the frontal lobe when my hand is moved. However, over time, my brain has learned to utilize the function of movement through both the motor and frontal lobes, making it faster and easier to use. Neuroplasticity contributes to the growth of the brain’s ability to perform a task beyond sectioned areas of the brain. It’s not necessarily physical growth, just changes and expansions in regions in which individual tasks in the brain occur. However, it is not physical growth, just changes and expansions in where individual tasks in the brain may lie. More on plasticity of the brain here.
Neurogenesis vs. Neuroplasticity
Both processes are ways that the brain has been shown to heal itself. However, neurogenesis is only as effective as neuroplasticity is. The sheer number of brain cells does not determine how our brains use them, and the development by which brain cells work is through neuroplasticity.
How do we stimulate Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis?
Neurogenesis can be very sensitive to environmental stimuli. As our daily behaviors greatly influence our cognitive abilities, more stimulating environments that require increased mental energy can help to diversify the development of neural cells.
In order to change the way your brain develops itself — Here are a few ways to stimulate neuroplasticity in your brain:
- Getting out of your normal routine
- Taking on new projects to learn and develop yourself
- Changing up your environment
- Even intermittent fasting can help – learn more about intermittent fasting here
More ideas on how we can promote neuroplasticity can be found here.
For neurogenesis, there are many ways to stimulate the process – Here are a few examples:
- Intermittent Fasting is shown to help protect and foster a neurogenesis-friendly environment
- BDNF, a protein found in antioxidants, can help stimulate neurogenesis – more can be found here
- Creating a good environment for the creation of neurons:
Wellthoughts is planning on expanding and we’d love your input. If you found this article useful or would like to contribute we would love your honest feedback. Please do not hesitate and reach out to me at [email protected]. Good luck with your wellness journey! – Drew