Yes, New Brain Cells Can Be Regrown

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Our Saturday green news brings you the latest on health, parenting and cool baby and kid products:

brain cells

Photo courtesy of Allan Ajifo via Flickr

  • Yes, new brain cells can be regrown: Until relatively recently, experts believed that regrowing brain cells was not possible. Neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret explains that humans can actually generate new brain cells in a process called neurogenesis. This process also has range of important benefits, such as  mood improvement, increasing memory formation and preventing the decline associated with aging. On the contrary, lifestyle filled with stress, lack of sleep, certain medications and aging all reduce the natural rate of neurogenesis. Thuret adds: “Some cancer patients unexpectedly develop symptoms of depression even after being told they are cured of their cancer. Unfortunately, the drugs they’ve received not only stop cancer cells from multiplying, but also stop “new neurons from being generated in their brain, which has a negative impact on their mood.” On the other hand, learning, sex, and aerobic activity all have a positive impact on increasing neurogenesis. Watch Thuret’s talk on TED for all of the details.
  • Tinnitus linked to chronic pain: A new research review called Human Brain: Facts, Anatomy & Mapping Project recently published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, suggests that tinnitus (or ringing in the ears) and chronic pain are the result of similar changes in two regions of the brain- the nucleus accumbens and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. These two regions, both in the front of the brain, may act as “gatekeepers” for sensory stimuli such as noise and pain. As Josef Rauschecker, a professor of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University and lead author of the review explained: “It’s a very clever system. Several systems in the brain help people cope with the flood of information that comes in every second. These systems filter out the signals that are not important, while letting other signals through.” Rauschecker likened this system to living near a train track: “A train that passes by every hour would drive you crazy, but your brain comes to realize that the noise is not dangerous, so after a while, you don’t even pay attention to it. But in people with tinnitus or chronic pain, there’s something wrong with this “gatekeeping” system, Rauschecker said. That means that instead of your brain ignoring the signals, that information is able to get through. If you step back, you can see the similarity” between the two conditions. In both tinnitus and chronic pain, the body sends signals to the brain that really don’t mean anything. But these signals are not filtered out, as they normally would be.”
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