Do the brain cells regenerate?

Do neurons regenerate? The answer to this question is not simple and for years scientific studies have gone in the direction of affirming that neurogenesis or neuronal regeneration occurs from birth and throughout our lives.

However, the most recent research points in the opposite direction and suggests that neurogenesis does not occur in adult brains, or not in the way in which it was believed.

In this article we are going to answer the question ‘’Does the brain cells regenerate?’’ we explain what neurogenesis consists of, and we give you the keys to understanding the current controversy around whether or not neurons regenerate in adulthood.

Do the brain cells regenerate?

Yes, brain cells can regenerate. Neurogenesis is now accepted in neurons and glial cells.

For decades, it was a truth assumed by all: the human being is born with a finite number of neurons that are degrading and are never replaced. Period. Life gave each one a closed package of these cells, which had to be cared for responsibly.

But no truth is absolute: science has been busy proving that the generation of neurons is also a reality at other ages and moments of the life cycle, not only during the embryonic stage. 

It is the process known as adult neurogenesis; the brain manufactures new neurons that complete the ones each has developed by the fusion of the parents’ sperm and egg. And it makes them work.

But the paradigm shift is not limited to the fact that this new truth is already proven. Some studies suggest that these processes of adult neurogenesis can be promoted, that they can be precipitated and reinforced, assuming a series of practices related to habits and routines.

Although there are conflicting opinions about when, why and with what intensity these production processes are unleashed, dozens of investigations have shown that through diet, exercise and even the practice of sex, it is possible to promote neurogenesis and take a hand to the sacrificed brain. 

Always doing it. Always on the go. And crucial to living longer and better.

Neurogenesis

Also known as the birth of new brain cells, neurogenesis is the process of generating new neurons and glial cells, bone, of new brain cells.

For a long time it was firmly held that brain cells were not capable of regenerating after the completion of an organism.

However, certain investigations carried out in recent decades have turned the theory upside down and have determined that indeed, neurogenesis continues even after the development of organisms is complete, and this is the case throughout life in organisms, both vertebrates and invertebrates.

Various examples of this process were evidenced in the hippocampus of mammals, birds, insects, rodents and crustaceans. But the so-called adult neurogenesis seems to occur only in the hippocampus, the olfactory bulb, and largely on the olfactory epithelium.

 

The brain creates new neurons up to the age of 90

It has always been said that the neurons that we have when we die are the same that we have when we are born. Our neural network does not regenerate and, for this reason, the weakening of our gray matter can cause memory loss, learning difficulties or different diseases.

However, a study published in the journal “Nature Medicine” has shown that there is an area of the brain in which new neurons are born.

According to this research, hippocampal neurogenesis, as this process of neuronal regeneration is known, is common in healthy people in an area of the brain known as the dentate gyrus. In this way, the brain creates new neurons throughout adult life. However, people with Alzheimer’s have damage in this area.

“Our work identifies a combination of methods that allows visualizing the birth of new neurons in the adult human dentate gyrus. This methodology has allowed us to know, for the first time, unique data about the maturation of the new neurons generated in this region of the brain.’’

Thus, we have been able to study in depth the stages that new neurons go through before fully maturing, which proteins they synthesize, and how they change shape and position within the dentate gyros ”, explained one of the researchers.

The team analyzed brain tissue samples from 13 healthy donor subjects. In this way he concluded that the human being continues to generate neurons, although the rate of creation slows down over the years.

Despite a slight reduction in the number of neurons generated during aging, a large number of these neurons are still present in the dentate gyrus of individuals who do not suffer from any neurological disease until at least 87 years of age.

Studies on neuronal regeneration are not new. In fact, the creation of new neurons in mice and other small mammals has been shown to participate in the acquisition of new memories and in learning.

In this way, hippocampal neurogenesis could also influence the acquisition of new memories and knowledge by the elderly.

Be that as it may, today there is no clear consensus in the scientific community as to whether or not neurons regenerate in adult brains. The evidence is conflicting, and the latest research seems to call into question decades of research on neurogenesis in adults.

So the only certainty we have at the moment is that there is a lot to investigate.

1,400 new every day

This is how a team of experts at the Karonlinska Medical Institute in Sweden quantifies the production after analyzing the concentration of carbon 14 in the DNA of neurons present in the hippocampus of deceased people.

With their study, published by the journal Cell, they found that “neurons are also generated during adulthood and that it can contribute to the proper functioning of the brain.”

But they go further. The authors advance that these new neurons may have fundamental value for future research related to the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Knowing this reality generates an expectation. The door opens to develop different treatments that promote this generation. Delving into these investigations could, in some way, offer expectations in some diseases.

It also affirms that these adult neurogenesis processes have a limited role, incapable of correcting serious brain injuries, and that their effect diminishes with age, but that “they give us clues that there is the possibility of inducing the appearance of neurons through specific drugs and treatments”.

5 habits that promote the creation of neurons

Sandrine Thuret, a neuroscientist at King’s College London, is one of the world’s leading neurogenesis researchers. She strongly argues that the hippocampus continues to generate neurons that are essential for learning and memory processes throughout life.

Thuret also points out, with her studies, that these processes can be reinforced by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. And their conclusions intersect with those of many other analyzes that delve into these guidelines:

Aerobic exercise

Scientists at the University of Jyväskylä, in Finland, discovered that it is one of the most suitable techniques to increase neurogenesis. Running or endurance exercises are good practice, although walking briskly for 30 minutes, five days a week is sufficient as a starting point.

Feeding

Betting on the Mediterranean diet and low-calorie plans seems to be, again, a more than wise decision. Although other studies go a step further, speaking of flavonoids as foods that promote adult neurogenesis.

Green tea, red grapes and, ultimately, foods rich in antioxidants, should be included in the usual diet for their positive effects to prevent cell degeneration.

Sex

The study published by the Us National Library of Medicine found that the hippocampus produces new neurons when the body is continuously exposed to the practice of sex, thus improving cognitive function.

But they warn: “Repeated sexual experience can stimulate adult neurogenesis as long as it persists over time.” It is up to each one to set the calendar.

Stress and anxiety under control

It is also a determining factor for the correct functioning of the brain, for the maintenance of neuronal plasticity and for the promotion of more relevant neurogenesis processes.

Thus, scientists from the University of Oregon point out that meditation understood as an exercise that controls and eliminates tension, is a practice that triggers the generation of new neurons in adulthood. In conclusion: a few minutes a day to clear the mind will help the brain in both the short, medium and long term.

Always active mind

It is, perhaps, the most relevant advice: Learning generates connections between the different areas of the brain, and that is why it is key so that it can take precedence over its deterioration.

It’s not only to read a lot, but also to maintain a regular social interaction and constantly stimulate the brain.

The brain is a little less unfathomable every day. Hundreds of scientists who strive to unravel its secrets and try to understand it in order to take better care of it are concerned with this. The next mystery to unravel, the next myth to tear down?

Who knows. But what is certain is that there is still much to know. And that our brains must be ready to understand everything that they still hide today.

FAQS: Does the brain cells regenerate?

Do brain cells grow back?

Yes, neurons will re-grow. Neurogenesis is now known as a mechanism that usually takes place in the healthy adult brain.

How do you regenerate brain cells naturally?

5 keys to regenerate your neurons

  1. Physical exercise: Every time you get your body working thanks to a sport, a walk, swimming or a simple exercise routine at the gym, you oxygenate your brain.
  2. Take care of your diet: Foods rich in omega 3
  3. Sex helps too: The production of certain hormones – such as serotonin, dopamine or oxytocin – in intimate encounters favor the creation of new nerve cells.
  4. An agile mind: Learn something new.
  5. Meditation.

Why can’t brain cells regenerate?

They can regenerate

Can the brain heal itself after damage?

The brain cells that are impaired are not beyond repair after a stroke. During the first three or four months after a stroke, the most rapid recovery usually happens.

How can I repair my brain?

HOW TO HELP YOUR BRAIN HEAL AFTER AN INJURY

  1. Get plenty of sleep at night.
  2. Increase your activity slowly.
  3. Avoid drugs.
  4. Eat brain-healthy foods.
  5. Stay hydrated.

In this article we are going to answer the question ‘’Does the brain cells regenerate?’’ we explain what neurogenesis consists of, and we give you the keys to understanding the current controversy around whether or not neurons regenerate in adulthood.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!

References

Kempermann, G. (2016). Adult neurogenesis: an evolutionary perspective. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology, 8(2).

Kozorovitskiy, Y., & Gould, E. (2008). Adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Handbook of developmental cognitive neuroscience, 51-62.

Song, J., Zhong, C., Bonaguidi, M. A., Sun, G. J., Hsu, D., Gu, Y., … & Deisseroth, K. (2012). Neuronal circuitry mechanism regulating adult quiescent neural stem-cell fate decision. Nature, 489(7414), 150.

Sorrells, S. F., Paredes, M. F., Cebrian-Silla, A., Sandoval, K., Qi, D., Kelley, K. W., … & Chang, E. F. (2018). Human hippocampal neurogenesis drops sharply in children to undetectable levels in adults. Nature, 555(7696), 377.

Leave a Comment