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Neurogenesis: How To Grow New Brain Cells (Neurons)

A lot of people don’t know that it’s possible to grow new brain cells through a process called “neurogenesis.” This process is completely healthy and basically means that any neurons (brain cells) that you may have killed while going on a cocaine inspired bender can be restored. Okay, it may be tougher if you are a serious coke fiend (i.e. Charlie Sheen) to restore all of your dead brain cells, but for the average person that may have lost a few here or there from doing some crazy shit, you can actually grow them back. That’s right, you can learn how to grow new brain cells and restore some of your brain power.  By the way, if you like this article that I wrote, please link back to it or AndrewPavelski.com to let people know what’s up…

What is Neurogenesis?

Close Up of a Neuron

Neurogenesis is the growth of new brain cells or birth of new neurons in the brain. The process happens in a specific area in your brain called the “hippocampus” which is located in the “limbic system.” Yeah it’s got a weird name and unless you’re interested in the brain, you are probably thinking of a hippo and a campus and that’s totally fine. Anyways, this hippocampus region is important because it is the location in your brain that is involved in learning, memorization, storing memories, and a wide variety of cognitive functions.

The hippocampus is what helps human beings with spatial navigation as well as short term and long term memory consolidation. What’s interesting is that people that have Alzheimer’s disease generally experience problems with their hippocampus’ before any other region of the brain. So one way to prevent Alzheimer’s is to engage in activities that promote the growth of new brain cells. Obviously you probably already are aware of the fact that people with Alzehimer’s disease suffer memory problems and sometimes become disoriented. Okay, so now that you know what the hippocampus is and what it does, it’s time to talk about how it aids in the growth of new brain cells and neurogenesis process.

Where does neurogenesis occur? Hippocampus (Dentate Gyrus)

When your brain produces a crop of new brain cells (neurons), the hippocampus plays a major role; specifically the dentate gyrus. Nutrients and glial cells come together in the hippocampus area and form new cells; that’s the simplest possible explanation for this process. After the new cells are formed, they generally need support from other nearby neurons in the surrounding area otherwise the new cells will die. Even though the hippocampus typically produces thousands of new brain cells every single day, the majority of these cells die immediately after they are formed because the conditions are not ideal for neurogenesis to take place.

The ultimate goal is to keep these new cells alive and prevent them from dying so that they can help us to improve our mental functioning and brain power. When we keep them alive during the crucial period after birth, we essentially increase the number of healthy cells in our brain. It would make sense that having more fresh cells would aid in the process of learning and memory, as well as give us an upgrade to our mental RAM. Since I’m not a neuropsychologist and don’t particularly want to go into major detail about the formation of cells, I’m not going to explain this any further. I gave you a basic understanding of how the formation of new brain cells takes place.

What I will discuss below are some scientifically proven ways to grow new brain cells and keep newly formed brain cells alive during the critical formation period in the hippocampus region of your brain. All of the methods that I’ve included have been scientifically researched and clearly work. If you are a person that’s interested in growing new brain cells and having a more powerful brain, be sure to read up below and see which methods you can implement into your lifestyle. Some people may have fresh brains and may be utilizing many of the techniques below already. Either way check them out and see what you think…

How to Grow New Brain Cells with Neurogenesis

1. Aerobic Exercise

Most people are aware of the fact that exercise can help prevent heart attacks, obesity, and a number of different health conditions. However, most people aren’t aware of the fact that exercise can help you grow new brain cells. Exercise is one of the most scientifically researched and proven methods to promote neurogenesis. There have been countless scientific experiments dealing with humans and animals that have demonstrated exercise to really amp up the formation of new brain cells.

In certain experiments, researchers were able to find that if mice used running wheels on a daily basis, they had over double the total amount of brain cells in the hippocampus in contrast to mice that didn’t exercise. It would make sense that these findings carried right over to human beings; and that’s exactly what researchers found. A different study conducted by Colombia demonstrated that humans that exercised regularly with a training program grew new brain cells as well as nerve cells in the hippocampus of their brains, whereas individuals lacking exercise did not.

What’s crazy is that by participating in consistent aerobic exercise, your brain actually restores itself from certain types of damages. People that exercise regularly had up to triple (3x) the amount of neurons as people who did not engage in aerobic activity; that’s a pretty significant difference. Obviously if you want to be a fat slug and have less brain cells, the simple thing to do is to keep sitting around and stay as inactive as possible. Sure your brain will still work, but it won’t be able to function as well as someone who is going for a daily run or participating in aerobic exercise routines.

It doesn’t matter what age you are, if you participate in aerobic exercise, it will have a neuroprotective and restorative effect on the brain while creating ideal conditions for neurogenesis. Fred H. Gage was the scientific researcher that first came up with the hypothesis that exercise induced the growth of new brain cells in mice; his hypothesis tested out and he tested the same thing on humans by using dyes to observe new cells vs. the old cells. His findings and research showed that exercise can significantly aid in the creation of new brain cells.

If you seriously want to kick start an exercise program, I can recommend a couple of my favorite programs: P90X (see my P90X Review) and Insanity (see my Insanity Review). I’d say that if I had to pick one that would likely be more effective in promoting neurogenesis, it would probably be Insanity because it deals with more cardiovascular exercises and intense aerobic movement, whereas in P90X there are more weight lifting and strength exercises.

2. Caloric Restriction (CR)

Caloric restriction involves cutting back on the number of calories you ingest (i.e. eating less food) in order to promote physical and mental health and increase your overall lifespan. Reducing the number of calories that you eat on a daily basis and engaging in a caloric restriction routine can create perfect conditions to grow new brain cells. Obviously you need to know what you’re doing though when you are restricting the number of calories that you’re eating. This is not something that I would recommend to someone with anorexia or a person that starves themselves on a regular basis because those people should be going to a Golden Corral Buffet right about now.

With that said, if you are serious about fostering the growth of new brain cells, one technique you can use is caloric restriction. Reducing your caloric intake is linked to another process called “Ketogenesis” (or “Ketosis”) which also aids in neurogenesis; all of these concepts are somewhat connected in the fact that they are a result of CR. There is an interesting link between caloric restriction and staying active (which links to the first method of exercise listed above). Scientists have found that calorie-restricted animals and humans are more likely to stay active than those who aren’t restricted of calories. That seems kind of weird because if you didn’t have extra calories to burn, why would you be active? It doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s what the research claims.

Personally, I probably could handle caloric restriction, but I would rather exercise to get my new brain cells. I don’t like the idea of cutting back on food and feeling like I’m hungry because eating is one of my favorite things to do. Testing out calorie restriction could prove to be an interesting experiment to see how you feel mentally and physically. In addition to aiding in the process of neurogenesis, caloric restriction has been shown to extend the life expectancy of both humans and animals. Even though this doesn’t sound appealing to me, maybe there are people that actually would do this in order to grow some new brain cells. It does increase BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor) which is linked to better health…

So just keep in mind that if you eat less food compared to your normal intake (i.e. restrict your calories), you are setting up shop for some neurogenesis in your brain. Caloric restriction seems to have a lot of beneficial health effects including protecting against brain aging and degenerative diseases, but my guess is that it’s tough for most people to do. As I mentioned, it’s not something that I would want to engage in, but if you want to cut back on calories, go right ahead – it’s beneficial for your brain and overall health.

3. Active Learning

Most scientists know that the development of new brain cells can help people learn new things and enhance the overall learning experience. However, until recently, most scientists didn’t know that active learning could actually help us produce new brain cells. In several animal studies, scientific researchers found that there was an undeniable connection between “active learning” and the survival rate of neurons produced in the hippocampus.

Based on the information that I’ve read about active learning and neurogenesis, it seems as though “active learning” puts these new brain cells to use and prevents them from decay and death. It is widely known that the hippocampus produces new cells every day, but as I already mentioned earlier, most of them die. So even if you have thousands of new cells being born and produced in your brain every day, you cannot really count on them surviving unless you are using techniques listed here.

If you are the type of person that enjoys learning new things, you are putting these new brain cells to use that are generated every day in your hippocampus. Now will all of the thousands of cells survive each day if you try to keep learning? No. But if you engage in learning activities (e.g. learn something new such as a skill, sport, hobby, etc.) you are more likely to put some of these new cells to use instead of just letting them perish.

Most of the researchers that have studied learning and its link to neurogenesis have done the majority of their studies in rodents. In their findings, they discovered that the more overall “learning” that the animals engaged in, the greater the overall survival rate of newly formed neurons in the brain. Basically what scientists have said is that the cells that normally die, are given a boost of life and rescued through various learning experiences.

If you are actively engaged in learning activities on a daily basis, you should be able to put some of these newly generated neurons in your brain to good use. There are many different types of learning and it’s important to keep in mind that just learning new information from scholarly studies probably isn’t as effective as learning a new skill like learning how to drive a car, ride a bike, rollerblade, snowboard, and doing something where you’re required to actually apply information what you learn; that’s why it’s called “active learning.”

Reading another book or the latest new headlines probably isn’t going to do shit unless you learn to implement and apply a new skill in your life. Learning how to juggle or play ping pong (table tennis) are what I would consider “active learning.”

4. Meditation

Most people that follow news and research in health know that practicing regular meditation can be physically healthy because it revitalizes our body and can help our brain produce chemicals that promote physical health and longevity. Not only does proper meditation have an effect on our overall physical health, but it is extremely beneficial for mental health in most people.

Researchers at Harvard, MIT, and Yale have all discovered the fact that regular meditation can help people “grow bigger brains.” While growing a bigger brain may not be the exact same phenomenon as neurogenesis, it would make sense that people who regularly practice meditation are able to take advantage of and utilize more neurons produced by the hippocampus. During meditation, the brain is highly active, so new neurons are likely being formed and incorporated into existing neural networks.

Meditation is well documented to permanently increase brain activity, promote neuroplasticity, as well as aid in the thickening of our grey matter. Grey matter is involved in sensory perceptions, hearing, emotions, speech, muscle control, and formation of memories. Having thicker grey matter is beneficial in most cases. People that have lower volumes of grey matter tend to have more mental health problems.

Even though there isn’t direct research linking meditation to neurogenesis, it’s tough to completely rule it out until a study is done. There is clear evidence that meditation is one of the healthiest activities you can engage in for improvements in mental health. It would be interesting for someone to conduct a thorough study in long time meditators to see whether they have an increased number of neurons in the hippocampal region of the brain; my guess is that they would.

If you already know how to meditate and/or meditate regularly, you probably have noticed some sort of mental health improvements. Plus, meditation has been known to stop brain deterioration as we age. As we get older, our brains usually suffer in overall performance; we are not as sharp as we were when we were in our prime. So there are a wide variety of health benefits in addition to the speculation that it does play a role in the growth and production of new brain cells.

I don’t personally meditate because I’m not some new age hippy trying to get in touch with some long lost spirits, but that’s just me. I know there are a lot of reasons for which people meditate ranging from health to spiritual commitments. I’m not going make fun of you if you meditate (well I actually might), but you’ll probably have a healthier brain as a result. Have I tried meditation? Yes. Did I like it? Not really. Plus, I’m not trying to join any new age Eastern religion cults right now. If you meditate and have enough discipline to keep going with it, congratulations.

5. Antidepressants (SSRI’s)

If you are taking antidepressants for depression, know that they are linked to neurogenesis. According to researchers at the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), antidepressants such as Prozac (Fluoxetine) produce a huge boost in the production of new neurons in comparison to people that aren’t taking them. What’s interesting is that most people with depression have problems producing new brain cells, so even though most of these drugs deal with serotonin reuptake inhibition (SSRI), they have an interaction that leads to neurogenesis in the brain; pretty badass.

It seems as though the behavioral improvements as a result of antidepressants are linked to their ability to contribute to neurogenesis as well. In one particular study, scientists actively blocked the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus region of the brain in participants who were on Prozac. In this study, they ended up discovering that when neurogenesis was deliberately blocked, people that were being treated for depression didn’t experience the same behavioral benefits as individuals that didn’t have their neurogenesis blocked in the hippocampus.

I wouldn’t recommend taking antidepressants though just because they could amp up your brain cell count. These are drugs that are for people that are really mentally ill and have side effects. Antidepressants aren’t something you’re going to catch me popping regularly just so that I can grow some extra neurons… You shouldn’t either. Just turn on your TV and you’ll see all kinds of drug lawyers filing lawsuits against big pharmaceutical companies for some crazy adverse health effects that these drugs can cause.

I do think that it would be cool as hell to be able to take a pill specifically for inducing neurogenesis though. Not only would it likely sell like pancakes at an iHOP, but it would probably help some people out that have lost a lot of brain cells or that just don’t have much mental brain power. Then again, maybe it would lead to problems – we would need some people to volunteer for a double blind study if it were ever created. Then it would take another 20 years to get it approved by the FDA. Don’t count on there being one of these magic pills to grow new brain cells in your lifetime.

6. Enriched Environment

If you know anything about psychology and learning, then you should know that being in a highly stimulating, enriched environment is better for your brain in comparison to one that’s impoverished. Obviously if you were a kid that grew up in an enriched environment, you’re brain should be literally fucking amazing compared to everyone else’s… Well, unless you took a chance, started doing meth, and ended up homeless…

Anyways, even if you did start doing meth and ended up homeless, hopefully you could use some of the suggestions on this list to get your brain in better shape. Back to the topic at hand though, if you want to grow new brain cells, it would probably be a good idea to expose yourself to an enriched environment as often as possible. If you have kids, try to raise them as well as you can and get them to go to a school that has really innovative teaching and learning opportunities.

The evidence for an enriched environment having an impact on the production and regulation of new brain cells is abundant. People as well as animals that grow up in healthy enriched environments tend to have larger, more developed hippocampi in comparison to individuals that live in average or impoverished conditions. Since hippocampi are involved in neurogenesis, it makes sense that people growing up in a highly stimulating, enriched environment will have a greater average number of new brain cells than those who are living in the gutter.

7. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

If you know anything about eating healthy, chances are good that you know most types of fish is considered brain food. Well most types of fish supply people with what are known as Omega 3 fatty acids. Even though in the name is the word “fatty” and the word “acid” these are actually really healthy for us and our brains. The average person does not get nearly enough fish in their diet these days and they tend to have way more Omega 6 fatty acids (unhealthy) compared to their ratio of Omega 3 Fatty Acids (healthy).

Omega 3 fatty acids are involved in the overall development and functioning of your central nervous system. And the important thing to keep in mind regarding Omega 3 fatty acids is that you can only get them from dietary sources. They aren’t something that your body naturally produces, you need to eat the right foods to get them (seafood and fish are great sources). Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough Omega 3 fatty acids tend to be at greater risk for mental health problems compared to those getting an adequate amount of Omega 3s.

So how the heck are Omega 3 fatty acids linked to the production of new brain cells? Although they may not directly induce neurogenesis, they most definitely affect the process. Researchers have found that by altering the ratios of Omega 6 fatty acids to Omega 3 fatty acids, the neurogenesis process also is altered. People with greater Omega 3 fatty acids compared to Omega 6 tend to have an easier time producing new brain cells. More Omega 6 than Omega 3 tends to be less beneficial in the process. So make sure that you are getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet if you want to ensure the growth of new cells.

8. Blueberries

I was doing research on foods that trigger neurogenesis, and the only thing that I could come up with was blueberries. Pretty badass that there’s only one food and it’s a delicious little blue berry a.k.a. blueberry that triggers the growth of new brain cells. So what the hell makes blueberries able to help us grow new brain cells compared to something like strawberries, raspberries (my favorites), blackberries, acai berries, or other exotic fruits like mangosteen?

Apparently the natural dark blue dye (that gives blueberries their dark outer coating) is the stuff that triggers the brain cell growth in the hippocampus. This dark blue dye has a specific name though, it’s called “anthocyanin dye” and it releases chemicals that end up crossing the blood-brain barrier when ingested by humans. When these chemicals from the “anthocyanin dye” cross the barrier, they have an interaction that yields new brain cells.

Scientists have actually tracked the neurogenesis process from blueberries in rodents by injecting them with a chemical that allowed them to see whether the rodents (rats) were growing new cells. It turned out that as a result of them eating a blueberry enhanced diet was linked to neurogenesis. Then they dove further into their research and found out that the “anthocyanin dye” was responsible for triggering the process.

Apparently the rats that were fed a diet with more blueberries were more skilled at navigating through complex mazes compared to the Stuart Little’s (or Ratatoullies) that weren’t given blueberries. I would recommend to Ratatoullie that he should definitely start using blueberries in his recipes if he wants to seriously kick ass in any future laboratory maze races… Anyways, the moral of the story is to eat your blueberries if you want more brain cells. And if you consider yourself a rat or own a pet rat, feed them more blueberries.

I personally doubt that eating a buffet of blueberries (or regularly injecting freebase “anthocyanin dye”) everyday is going to give you way more brain cells compared to everyone else. But since blueberries are healthy and eating them can lead to neurogenesis, it would probably be a smart idea to include them in your diet if you think they taste good. I love them and can eat a whole case in a single day if I’m hungry enough, they are damn good. Blueberries lead to new brain cells and are currently one of the only known food (if not the only known food) to aid in the process.

9. Sexual Experience

If you are a sex whore or are just a person that likes to have a lot of sex, the research shows that it’s good for growing new brain cells. People that have more sexual experience are likely to have increased plasticity in the hippocampal region of the brain as well as more brain cells as a result of this experience. Researchers examined whether sexual intercourse and sexual experience had any effect on the structure and functioning of the brains of adult rats.

The scientists conducting this study set up a protocol to account for the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus comparing those that are sexually experienced with those who don’t have as much experience. It turns out that the rats getting some action were more likely to experience adult neurogenesis. So basically if you have had a lot of sexual experiences, it was probably good for the health of your brain.

In addition to the growth of new brain cells, sexual experience promoted the growth of dendrites and supporting dendritic architecture in the brain. The study cited that “chronic sexual experience” (e.g. regular sexual activity) is not only pleasurable but stimulates neuronal growth. Obviously it doesn’t mean that you need to go out and act like a super pimp Lil B Based God (guys) and a stank hoe (girls), but it does mean that if you engage in regular sex, it can produce more neurons. Oh and if you have an STD, I encourage you to skip this one for the sake of other people…

10. Flavonoids (Oroxylin A)

The most documented flavonoid to aid in neurogenesis is one specifically referred to as “Oroxylin A.” When I read the study that discussed adult neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus region of mice as a result of Oroxylin A, I had nofa king clue what this flavonoid was all about… so I did some research. It turns out that Oroxylin A is an “O-methylated flavone” – (hmm… about that… *Office Space voice*). Anyways, I dug a little deeper and found out that it was from the Oroxylum indicum tree as well as the plant Scutellaria baicalensis (more commonly called a Skullcap).

If you know what a BrdU-incorporating cell is, then just keep in mind that when Oroxylin A was administered to the rats, the BrdU-incorporating cells co-localized with neuronal markers and neuronal nuclei. It is suggested that the neurogenesis was basically a result of the fact that the Oroxylin A had a positive impact on cognitive functioning. Now that we’re on the topic of flavonoids though, there are two main types: Quercetin and Epicatechin. Quercetin can be found in citrus fruits, buckwheat, and onions. Epicatechin is included in cocoa (dark chocolate) and has more powerful antioxidant effects than both red wine and green tea.

If you really don’t give a shit about the technical terms regarding flavonoids like myself, just know that certain flavonoids are good for your brain and can have neurogenesis properties. And keep in mind that flavonoids are also more commonly referred to as Vitamin P and Citrin. Oh and in case you were wondering since I mentioned “red wine” and “green tea” – I couldn’t find any studies suggesting that they play a role in neurogenesis despite their antioxidative affect.

11. Curcumin (Turmeric)

A study by Jaewon Lee at Pusan National University in Korea found that “curcumin” is able to play a role at enhancing neurogenesis in adult mice. In case you don’t have a clue what “curcumin” is, it’s an element of curry spice that has long been known to have anti-inflammatory properties and can act as an anti-oxidant in the body. Some speculate that neurogenesis is the reason why curcumin has positive effects in most people that take it. Curcumin is also commonly known to be part of Turmeric which is a yellow spice that gives curries their natural yellowish color.

What’s interesting is that the mice that experienced neurogenesis as a result of the curcumin don’t even need to be given high doses. A more recent study demonstrated that curcumin at lower doses still is able to increase neurogenesis in rats. A lot of scientists speculate that these findings likely carry over to humans, but since there hasn’t been adequate testing and/or trials as of yet, it’s tough to say with 100% certainty that you can eat curry to grow new brain cells. Additionally, I have read a lot about curry powder, and have come across people hyping it up like the second coming of Christ and also people saying that it’s not even very healthy.

Personally, I could care less about adding curcumin in my diet to make sure that my brain cells are undergoing neurogenesis. If you include it in your diet and have noticed that you feel mentally sharper, who knows, it could be doing something positive. Still though just like some of the other items on this list, more research needs to be conducted. Since it was able to trigger neurogenesis in adult mice though, scientists are fairly optimistic that it has the same effect on humans. According to Greg Cole at University of California Los Angeles, neurogenesis as a result of curcumin demonstrates “another potential useful effect” of the substance.

12. Ginko Biloba

Ginko Biloba was found to increase neurogenesis in a study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. In their study, they were trying to figure out whether Ginko Biloba would have any restorative effect and help those affected with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) restore their lost synapses (through synaptogenesis). Although the study was tough to follow because they were using a lot of brain location terms that I wasn’t familiar with, it suggested that oral supplementation of Ginko Biloba enhanced neurogenesis and synaptogenesis by bilobalide and quercetin (whatever the hell those are).

This natural substance has been known to aid in memory and focus in human brains. Although there is a lot of research regarding Ginko Biloba and whether it lives up to the hype, many people suggest that it does have an overall positive effect on mental functioning. If you want to see what it does for you, go right ahead. Some studies have demonstrated that it takes over 6 months of daily supplementation to get the full effect though.

Personally, I’m a little bit skeptical when it comes to Ginko Biloba being able to aid the neurogenesis process. There were a lot of conflicting results in the research that I checked out and some were studies with very large sample sizes. I definitely do not think that this is some special miracle herb and am still a skeptic despite the University of MD study findings.

13. Infrared Light Helmets

Infrared light helmets are devices that were developed to help people with Alzheimer’s disease make mental improvements. In some trials with senior citizens, it has actually fully reversed their Alzheimer’s disease condition. Although this is a relatively new treatment for Alzheimer’s the designer of the infrared light helmets named Dr. Gordon Dougal (a GP in the UK) has talked about the fact that these helmets promote neurogenesis in the brain as a result of treatment. Since these helmets are not yet available for mainstream usage, it’s kind of tough to get your hands on one or involved in treatment for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

According to Dr. Dougal, these helmets work by directing intense bursts of infrared light into the brain to stimulate growth of brain cells. The reason he developed the helmet is because low-level infrared light is hypothesized to encourage brain cell growth and encourage tissue repair in the brain. Now when it comes to the latest and greatest fads like this, I’m always skeptical unless I have first-hand experience that it works or I have seen the studies to prove that it works.

Allegedly, this infrared light helmet is able to reverse dementia symptoms like memory loss in just 30 days of treatment. Dr. Dougal and his main homie Terry Pratchett have been promoting this helmet and its effectiveness in Alzheimer’s treatment. They say that it works specifically by shining infrared light onto a person’s brain (skin) and the light goes into the frontal part of the brain as well as onto the side of the brain. They say that since the human skull is relatively thin on the side and top of the head, the light penetrates brain tissue and is able to repair damaged tissue and help people grow new brain cells.

If you look at a picture of an actual infrared light helmet, the red light looks like a radiation field. I don’t know what exactly it does to your brain, but it’s definitely not something that I’d try unless I had Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It seriously looks like you would be sticking your head inside of the sun. If you don’t have Alzheimer’s disease, I wouldn’t be going out of my way to get an infrared light helmet because the long term side effects aren’t well documented. Plus, its effectiveness has been questioned by a lot of psychologists and scientists due to lack of adequate research. To most people (including myself) it kind of seems like a big crock of shit, but who knows. I’m not going to rule it out completely just because it looks like something from Star Wars.

14. Synthetic Cannabinoids (HU210) (Not Marijuana)

Although many illicit drugs and alcohol have the potential to decrease and kill brain cells, marijuana is a little bit different (or so it turns out). Researchers over at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon discovered that administering synthetic cannabinoids in rats stimulated the creation of new neurons and nerve cells in the hippocampus region of their brains. Additionally, the study found that these synthetic cannabinoids that were used also reduced both anxiety and depression (two emotional states that can actually prevent neurogenesis).

Apparently the results kind of came as a surprise to researchers because nearly all other commonly abused drugs (including tobacco and alcohol) killed brain cells. Most people that think marijuana kills brain cells now find that this is pretty much a propaganda lie spread by mainstream media. With that said, just because synthetic cannabinoids actually aided in the growth of new brain cells, this doesn’t at all mean that people who smoke pot have experienced the same effect. Studies still need to be properly conducted in human beings.

Most people who smoke the substance don’t realize that the smoke isn’t very healthy on the lungs and that it can make the mental health of some individuals worse. Just because synthetic cannabinoids made the list, I wouldn’t encourage you to start smoking up marijuana daily. First of all, marijuana has a different effect than these synthetic cannabinoids that were being used and there are still a lot of red flags surrounding this type of research.

I personally don’t use marijuana and think that it shouldn’t be considered a health drug. Even though I don’t care if other people use it safely, I would rather not sit around and get “trippy mane” like Juicy J or “roll up” like Curren$y and Wiz Khalifa. I know people that smoke pot, but most of the people I know that smoke it aren’t very productive and don’t really work hard towards anything. Based on what I’ve observed, some people like it so much that they continue to use it daily; this is what I would consider an addiction. I personally wouldn’t want to spend money smoking weed just so that I can relax… sorry it’s not for me. But if it’s for you, I respect your decision to keep using it. Now that you know it may be beneficial for your brain in certain cases, don’t try to convince every non-pothead you know that they need to start using it; mutual respect.

15. Sleep Amount

There is some contradictory information with regards to neurogenesis and sleep. In some controlled studies, it was found that 12 hours of sleep deprivation actually induced cell proliferation in the hippocampus of depressed rats. This is particularly interesting because it’s dealing with depressed rats and not normal ones. With that said, Elizabeth Gould from Princeton University discovered that sleep deprivation in normal rats prevents the creation of new neurons – therefore, it is detrimental to the process of neurogenesis.

It is well documented that prolonged sleep deprivation is unhealthy for the brain, and is definitely not something that I would recommend to anyone. Although the studies with depressed rats showed that a specific amount of sleep deprivation created new brain cells, most of the literature indicates that depriving yourself of sleep is not a good idea if you want to generate more neurons. The reason that lack of sleep can prevent neurogenesis is due to the fact that corticosterone as well as glucocoricoid levels are elevated; they prevent neuron formation.

Although sleep deprivation for less than 2 weeks may increase your brain cell count, after that particular time period, things are going to go downhill. Chronic sleep deprivation is pretty dumb in my opinion. If you want a healthy brain, just know that it’s a good idea to get your sleep. However, if you accidentally get less sleep than you normally do one night, who knows, maybe you grew some new neurons in your dentate gyrus.

Conclusion: Neurogenesis Needs More Human Research

The reason that I wrote this article is for people interested in the topic of neurogenesis and growing new brain cells. If you read the full article, I explained that not all of the methods listed here have been fully tested in humans, so keep that in mind. Neurogenesis is an interesting phenomenon especially since a lot of healthy activities lead to the process. The thing a lot of people want to really know though is how practical neurogenesis really is – do people even need to grow new brain cells to stay healthy?

In the great majority of cases, neurogenesis is actually beneficial to mental functioning. It can help significantly with learning and memory. Generally the only time where neurogenesis may have a negative effect on the brain is in cases of people with brain injury. In certain cases of brain injury, there is typically an increase in brain cell generation. When the brain is injured, these new cells aren’t effectively put to use or incorporated in positive mental functioning.

Dr. Tracey Shors (Rutgers University) Talks Neurogenesis in the Adult Brain (Video)

Most research though shows that boosting the overall number of neurons in your hippocampus will promote learning, behavioral change, and a memory boost. Many scientists including Dr. Hen consider neurogenesis “crucial for learning” because it helps us discriminate between certain experiences and give them meaning. Additionally, most scientists agree that growing new brain cells is beneficial in cases of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Also, the process is being studied to see whether it could help patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

As of now, you are probably aware of the fact that a lot of things have been linked to neurogenesis. I just figured that I’d compile them and write a little bit about each one so that you wouldn’t have to constantly search for things linked to neurogenesis. I tried to be fairly scientific with this article and if you want specific sources, just take something that I wrote about and Google it yourself – you will likely be able to find the studies. I may go back and add sources under each item on my list, but I did mention certain researchers and studies under certain points; you can just look them up yourself too.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to engage in all of the activities on this list for full benefit. You can pick one or two to utilize in your daily life consistently and chances are you’ll notice some benefit. My favorite one on the list is exercise because it’s something that I do often and something that I enjoy doing. The item that I thought was most interesting was synthetic cannabinoids because it is somewhat linked to marijuana which receives a lot of negative media attention and propaganda for being bad for your brain.

Scientists are still trying to figure out ways in which they can manipulate neurogenesis. The studies keep rolling in and neurogenesis (production of new neurons) is a popular topic in the field of neuroscience. If you have another item that I could add to this list and can back it up with a legitimate study (preferably from a scientific journal), I’d love to get it up here and added. Just leave me a comment below with a link to the study and if it checks out, I’ll get it added. Oh and one last thing, this article took me a long fricken time to write, so I’d appreciate you linking to it from your website and sharing it with other people so that it gets the attention that it deserves. Hope you enjoyed it.

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • troy August 3, 2012, 8:15 pm

    i think this research is extremly useful and i am going to have a good time on getting my brain cells back.all it takes is hard work and keeping myself inshape to improve my brain.thanks for the information and research and now cause if that i can get my life back and continue being happy.

  • Webala Odindo January 16, 2013, 11:22 am

    Yes indeed all this is factual. As a brain injury survivor, my mile stone was when I came acros Dr. Elizabeth Gould’s findings on neurogenesis. I can asure you that I am a beneficiary of the reassurance.
    Thanks to science.

  • Meldener October 29, 2013, 10:57 am

    Thank you for this excelent overview on neurogenesis stimulation procedures .
    I have come across an additional procedure which is the combination of aerobic exercise and intermitent fasting. This could well implement your list.

    I have not found scientific publication which validate this procedure

    Many thanks

    Dr Meldener

  • sam November 14, 2013, 2:01 am

    This is an interesting article. I am glad I came across it. I have a husband and two sons with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I personally have been experiencing a lot of memory loss, mostly short term memory. This information has help me know what I need to do for the four of us. Thanks so much.

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