Developing New Brain Neurons – Past, Present and Future
There was a widely held myth in the past that people were born with an established number of neurons formed before you became a teenager and then that was it for you.
The actual number is staggering and the estimates vary between 80 – 100 billion neurons. It’s a phenomenal number comparable to the number of stars potentially. Nobody is quite sure on that…
The Number of Brain Neurons Has Blown Away Old Beliefs
However this long held old belief has been blown away by various scientific studies by accredited scientists at various stages over the last 40 years or so. You can and will open up new neurons in your brain potentially right up to and including the last day you leave this world.
The brain has the power to grow continuously while you are still active on this planet. It has been firmly established now that the human brain cell growth can and will continually happen after adolescence. Neurogenesis is a lifelong process at least until age 97 when the last space ship leaves.
The Brain Doesn´t Stop Creating New Neurons
There are numerous claims mainly prior to 2019 that the brain stops growing new neurons by the start of your teenage years ie 13 years of age. In other cases they claim that age 25 is the end for brain growth. It’s incredible what theories and claims there has been and yet denial of growth especially in the Hippocampus area of the brain in which neurogenesis has and still continues to take place throughout your life.
Yes it is true that a younger brain is more malleable and flexible however humans are still more than capable of learning well beyond those ages referred to above. The brain can be trained to open or form new neural connections so it is up to you. Interestingly you are able to open up new brain cells when you do certain things differently:
Opening Up New Brain Cells – Examples
1) If you brush your teeth with your less dominant hand (in the majority of cases this is your left hand)
2) If you spend part of the time washing your car with your less dominant hand
3) If you clean your house windows and any glass mirrors and doors with your less dominant hand part of the time
4) If you paint anything with your less dominant hand the result is the same. New neurons are generated due to this different action.
For some years now because I like to employ on a regular basis my less dominant hand ie my left hand (in my case) to occasionally clean windows, doors, wash my car and paint etc I consistently open up new brain neurons which helps me. I use the left in each case for approximately 35 – 40% of the time.
When washing my car I use 2 large sponges and simultaneously employ both my right and left hands and get the job done somewhat quicker. The process makes the lazy left in my case more accountable! Additionally it’s another form of exercise.
Never let anybody tell you your brain cells die continuously without any further regeneration from the early adult years. That is an old belief and partially based on outdated theories. Are there really as many neurons in the human brain as stars in the Milky Way? We honestly have no idea how many stars there are. But it is an interesting thought and comparison!
Neurogenesis—the process of forming new brain cells—appears to continue in people well into old age, according to a recently published study funded in part by the NIA. Using proxy makers of neurogenesis in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory, researchers looked at post-mortem brain tissue from 18 people ages 79 to 99. They found evidence that new neurons developed even in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease.
Although neurogenesis in the adult brain in animal models has been well documented, the evidence of new brain cell growth in humans has been mixed. Writing in the journal Cell Stem Cell, the researchers suggest that despite debate on whether human brain cell growth can happen after adolescence, their new study indicates hippocampal neurogenesis does persist later in life and may be associated with cognition.
Of the 18 samples, six of the donors had been cognitively normal, six had MCI, and six had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s-type dementia. The research team took sections of the hippocampus and stained them for markers of stem cells called neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and new neurons, then used MRI data to estimate neurogenesis. The samples were from the NIH-funded Rush Memory and Aging Project
Tobin MK, et al. Human hippocampal neurogenesis persists in aged adults and Alzheimer’s disease patientsCell Stem Cell. 2019;24(6):974-982.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2019.05.003.
Image sourced by Martin Jeszke from Pixabay