✍️ Author: Dr Eleni Christoforidou
🕒 Approximate reading time: 5 minutes
Neurogenesis, the process through which new neurons are formed in the brain, was once believed to cease post-childhood. Yet, contemporary research debunks this, highlighting its crucial role in brain repair and regeneration throughout one's life.
Neurogenesis primarily occurs in the subgranular zone of the hippocampus and is the birth of new neurons from neural stem or progenitor cells. These newborn neurons are integrated into existing neural networks, playing vital roles in cognition, mood regulation, and memory.
Cognitive Function: Neurogenesis is associated with improved cognitive functions, especially those governed by the hippocampus like spatial navigation and memory consolidation.
Recovery from Brain Injury: After injuries, enhanced neurogenesis has been observed, indicating the brain's attempts to repair itself.
Mood Regulation: Decreased neurogenesis has been linked with mood disorders. Anti-depressants often work by promoting neurogenesis, highlighting its role in mood modulation.
Certain lifestyle choices and therapeutic interventions can boost neurogenesis:
Physical Activity: Regular exercise, especially aerobic, has been shown to enhance the birth of new neurons.
Diet: Diets rich in flavonoids (like blueberries) and omega-3 fatty acids (like fish) may support neurogenesis.
Learning: Engaging in intellectually stimulating activities, such as learning a new language, can foster neurogenesis.
Social Connections: Interacting with peers and maintaining social connections can also be beneficial.
Understanding the mechanisms behind neurogenesis can open doors for therapeutic interventions in neurodegenerative diseases:
Stem Cell Therapy: Introducing exogenous stem cells to promote neurogenesis and brain repair is being researched for conditions like Parkinson's disease.
Drugs and Molecules: Certain compounds can potentially stimulate endogenous neurogenesis, providing avenues for treatment.
Despite its potential, harnessing neurogenesis for therapeutic benefits comes with challenges:
Safety: Uncontrolled proliferation can lead to tumours.
Integration: Newly formed neurons must functionally integrate into existing networks.
Age Factor: Neurogenesis decreases with age, making it harder to stimulate in older individuals.
Neurogenesis holds great promise in the realms of brain repair and regeneration. With continued research and a deeper understanding, it may pave the way for groundbreaking treatments in neurology.