Some scientists think that neurogenesis may improve memory and help with anxiety and depression , though this is still uncertain. One thing’s for sure: the brain continues to birth new neurons throughout life. Read on to learn what may increase neurogenesis. Can Certain Factors Increase Neurogenesis?
If your goal is to increase neurogenesis to improve your brain- or mood-related issues – including those of depression, anxiety, or traumatic brain injury – it’s important to talk to your doctor, especially your mood is significantly impacting your daily life.
Your doctor should diagnose and treat the condition causing your symptoms.
The existing evidence does not suggest that reduced neurogenesis causes any disease.
Additionally, changes in brain chemistry are not something that people can change on their own with the approaches listed below. Instead, the factors listed here are meant to reduce daily stress and support overall mental health and well-being.
Therefore, you may try the additional strategies listed below if you and your doctor determine that they could be appropriate . None of these strategies should ever be done in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes.
We’re providing a summary of the existing research below, which should guide further investigational efforts.
The studies listed in this section were mostly done in animals and should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit in humans. 1) Exercise
Research suggests that aerobic exercise increases the number of new neurons in the hippocampus and increases hippocampal volume [ 1 , 2 ].
Running doubled the number of new cells in the hippocampus of mice [ 3 ].
One study found that aerobic exercise increased hippocampal volume in 120 elderly adults with dementia [ 4 ]. 2) Mental Activity
Learning new skills (particularly challenging ones) increases the survival of new neurons in the hippocampus, according to some recent studies [ 5 ].
Scientists think that the hippocampus shrinks with age, and engaging in a complex mental activity is associated with less shrinkage [ 6 , 7 ]. 3) Sleep
Short-term sleep deprivation (less than one day) has little effect on neurogenesis [ 8 ].
However, chronic sleep deprivation seems to reduce neurogenesis by increasing levels of stress hormones [ 9 ].
Researchers consider that adequate sleep increases neurogenesis by lowering TNF-α and stress hormones [ 9 ]. 4) Meditation
Stress is thought to be one of the main factors that decrease neurogenesis in the adult brain [ 10 , 11 , 12 ].
Both physical and social stresses appear to decrease hippocampal neurogenesis [ 13 , 14 ].
According to limited research, meditation may increase the size of the hippocampus. Scientists think that stress reduction may underlie neurogenesis [ 15 , 16 ]. 5) Sexual Activity
Sexual activity can also help relieve stress, but animal studies suggest it may also increase neurogenesis. Scientists found this with both acute and chronic sexual activity in rats [ 17 ].
Sex prevented a decrease in neurogenesis and improved memory in chronically-stressed mice [ 18 ]. 6) Flavonoids
Flavonoids are a group of compounds found in most fruits and vegetables.
Cocoa flavonoids seemed to build up in the hippocampus and protect the brain in animal models of aging, dementia, and stroke. Human evidence is lacking [ 19 ].
Blueberries and oolong and green teas are rich in flavonoids; they also increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus in animal experiments [ 20 , 21 ].
Based on animal and cellular studies, researchers hypothesize that several flavonoids may support brain health by [ 22 , 23 ]:
However, human data are lacking to back these mechanisms up. 7) The LMN Diet The LMN diet is a patented Medittarenean-like diet rich in polyphenols, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and soluble fiber [ 27 ].The LMN diet increased neurogenesis in mice, presumably by increasing precursor cells and mature neurons [ 28 ].This diet also appeared to increase neurogenesis in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s. The researchers claimed it delayed the formation of amyloid plaques in the hippocampus and improved cognitive function [ 29 ].Nonetheless, human studies are lacking. Plus, the main author of the studies hold the patent for the LMN diet, opening room for bias [ 27 ]. 8) Omega-3 Fatty Acids The omega-3 fatty acid DHA increased the formation of new connections in the hippocampus in gerbils [ 30 ].Increased hippocampal neurogenesis via omega-3 fatty acids has been proposed as a way to prevent PTSD , but this hasn’t been proven in humans. More research is needed [ 31 ]. 9) Coffee and Tea (Chlorogenic acid) Chlorogenic acid is found in coffee and black tea . Scientists are investigating whether it promotes hippocampal neurogenesis in cells, along with its by-product m-coumaric acid [ 32 ].Chlorogenic acid also seems to help protect the hippocampus and improve memory in animals, yet clinical trials have not explored this compound [ 33 , 34 ]. 10) Ketogenic Diets? Ketogenic diets are low-carb and high-fat, and they are claimed to induce the body to burn fat as its primary fuel source.One group of researchers found that a ketogenic diet increased neurogenesis in mice with epilepsy [ 35 ].However, another study reported that a ketogenic diet had no effect on neurogenesis in adult rats [ 36 ].Therefore, additional research is needed to determine whether–and what type of–ketogenic diets affect neurogenesis, particularly in humans. Herbs and Supplements that May Increase Neurogenesis Speak with your doctor before taking any supplements. Make sure to let them know about any prescription or over-the-counter medication you may be taking, including vitamins and herbal supplements. Remember that dietary supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. Supplements generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. 11) Resveratrol In animals and cells, resveratrol appeared to increase the birth of new neurons [ 37 ].Scientists hypothesize it might increase angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) and levels of growth factors that are associated with neurogenesis. Theoretically, these changes may lead […]