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11 Ways To Grow New Brain Cells And Stimulate Neurogenesis

Neurogenesis or the growth of new brain cells has become a seemingly trending topic in the past few years – partly because I think, it just sounds healthy. Everyone is looking for some sort of hack/edge on the competition and growing new brain cells sounds pretty advantageous, right? The reality is that we don’t exactly know what the benefits of growing these new cells are, but generating new cells certainly sounds favorable over killing brain cells. Anyways, I’m not going to bore you to death with some long winded intro, below is a compilation of some interesting ways to grow new brain cells.

11 Ways to Grow New Brain Cells

1. Running

Going for runs and aerobic activity in general has been linked to neurogenesis. Interestingly enough it is also a great way to reduce stress if done in moderation. Although it is most beneficial to run with other people (e.g. a group run) to maximize mood boosting affects, running alone will still help your brain give birth to some neurons. If you already run, your brain is probably in pretty good shape in regards to neurogenesis.  Read more: “Psychological Benefits of Exercise on the Brain.”

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17374720
Source: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306452208015558

2. Curcumin

Curcumin is found in the popular Indian spice Turmeric – part of the ginger family. It has been documented that curcuminoids have been shown to have brain boosting and cognition enhancing properties. Recently it has been shown that this substance now is linked to neurogenesis in animal models. In models of aging rats, supplementation with curcumin improved their memory and cell proliferation (birth of new neurons) in the dentate gyrate. Exact affects on humans aren’t well documented.

Source: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0031211

3. Sexual Experience

I think most people agree that sex is one of the best mood boosters and pleasurable activities of all. A study conducted by Leuner, Glasper, and Gould, discovered that sexual experience promotes adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus. If you are already having regular sex, your brain is likely growing some new neurons as a result. Although sex does produce an initial stress response, the final result is more neurons. Based on most studies, sex is a good thing for your brain.

Source: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0011597

4. Psilocybin

Magic mushrooms. Funny thing is they have been linked to having a long lasting antidepressant affect too. Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos has conducted research supporting the claims that the (illegal) substance Psilocybin has been linked to the growth of new neurons. He and his research team also found that these shrooms were linked to a boost in overall cognition and mood.  Further reading: Psilocybin for Depression.

5. Caloric Restriction

There is significant evidence linking caloric restriction in adult mice with the growth of new brain cells. In humans caloric restriction works a little bit differently, but in general it has been shown to increase lifespan and have healthy long term affects. Specifically it is linked to increased production of BDNF. Basically restricting your calories and not overeating produces somewhat of a stress response in the body. Following this stress response is the production of new neurons. Just because CR produces new neurons, does not mean it is physically healthy – keep this in mind if you were just about to starve yourself.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15123339

6. Cannabinoids

This is basically synthetic marijuana that scientists have found to be linked to the birth of new neurons. There aren’t any findings demonstrating that regular grade marijuana is linked to neurogenesis; keep this in mind. The study that was conducted in regards to cannabinoids was done at the University of Saskatchewan. Interestingly enough, they found that these cannabinoids also had an antidepressant-like effect on subjects.

Source: http://www.jci.org/articles/view/25509

7. Enrichment of Environment

Living in an enriched environment is beneficial to the development of the brain. Studies have been done comparing individuals that have grown up in an impoverished environment vs. those in an enriched one. The findings were able to clearly demonstrate that those growing up in the enriched environment were happier, healthier, and higher functioning than those in the impoverished one. According to findings, enriching the environment as much as possible can lead to the birth of new neurons.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9547229

8. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

It has been found that Omega-3 fatty acids can upregulate neurogenesis in adults. Omega 3’s are made up of two primary components: EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are both polyunsaturated fatty acids found in the body’s central nervous system. Supplementation has been linked to a whole heap of neuro-protective and cognitive benefits, in addition to the enhancement of neurogenesis. If you aren’t sure where to get these fatty acids, think fishy foods. Many people are turning to supplementation – I would personally recommend high grade Krill Oil if you are going the supplement route.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17240063
Source: http://www.pnas.org/content/106/27/11370.abstract

9. Antidepressants

The reason antidepressants help some people has been thought to be by inhibiting the re-uptake of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin. I have been on basically the full heap of SSRIs on the market today and I feel like they killed more of my brain than anything. Anyways, when researchers looked at what affects these drugs were having on the brain, a discovery that they made was that SSRI’s like Prozac were generating new neurons in the hippocampal region. Interestingly enough though, neurogenesis isn’t necessarily linked to improvements in mood – you could be growing new brain cells and still feel depressed.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19606083

10. Green Tea

Green tea is known to contain a substance called “ECGC.” This substance has been confirmed to enhance neurogenesis in the brains of adult mice. Although there are no conclusive studies in humans regarding ECGC’s ability to promote growth of new cells, most evidence supports the fact that green tea has positive effects on mental performance. I would hypothesize that ECGC would be a catalyst to the growth of new cells in humans as well.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22692966

11. Blueberries

The blue coloring in blueberries is a result of the anthocyanin dye that they contain. This dye is what scientists have found to be directly linked to neurogenesis. This is a fruit that is well documented to have a lot of health benefits, and now you know that every time you snack on these, you’re growing some new neurons.

The above list is strictly for a reference and is not meant to be used as a guide to load your brain up with new neurons. Don’t think you should go for a run, eat mounds of blueberries, have some crazy sex, or do psilocybin in the next 5 hour period. You’ll probably wind up just looking like a total nut. Many of the studies involving neurogenesis were conducted using mice, but to make this article as accurate as possible, I tried including studies utilizing human subjects.

Is neurogenesis really that important?

At the moment, I’m not aware of any institute that is specifically honing in on neurogenesis as a primary research focus. As more studies are conducted and science advances, more breakthroughs in this area will come. I’m not sure if this is an area that should be an exclusive focus either, because as of now, there aren’t necessarily major cognitive benefits associated with growing new brain cells. What do you think? Should scientists directly focus on studying this trend in neuroscience? If so, why?

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{ 30 comments… add one }
  • mikimoonmouse November 24, 2013, 5:58 am

    Some interventions might create new neurons through short term stress but harm others or limit the overall mental performance by energy deprivation (omega 3/6 fats, marijuana, ssri, caloric restriction). Increasing energy consumption of the brain is a safer way to increase mental health and performance. Red light therapy is one way to increase atp production in the brain.

    Pregnelone can make up a large percentage of young healthy brains and is overall protective but concentrations decline with stress and age. Butter can improve mental performance by anti inflammatory butyric acid and is safer than highly inflammatory and antimetabolic omega 3/6 fats. Estrogens have an degenerative effect on the brain, avoiding contraceptives and taking anti estrogenes plus aromatase inhibitors (fruits, aspirin, etc) are overall protective.

    Good sleep is very brain protective, eating a spoon of honey before going to bed and taking vitamin d3 upon wakening can improve sleep tremendously. Also avoiding blue, fluorescent lights after 7pm with orange glasses can help. Abnormal cell growth is a protective process of the body to dilute toxins down to save levels until they can be cleared. The long-term benefit of such stressful intervention his highly questionable.

    • Helen Maydewell September 11, 2014, 11:10 am

      I am very interested in neurology, because I have a grandson, who has cells dying thus causing him to lose his emotions. It is tragic for all affected in this way. He was a promising student. who gained a place at CALTEC and was put straight into 2nd yr. Math. I am a great believer in Omega 3. Having taken this since the 80’s I suffer no pain from osteo arthritis, and am quite alert. I would recommend the Krill but with a higher dose of DHA than is usual. Fish roe is actually the richest sauce of Omega 3, if it is available. I believe that treating loss of cells with neurogenisis would be a wonderful breakthrough, because it would reach out to people throughout the world who do not and may never be cured with stem cells when it eventually is possible, because of the cost. To be able to cure people of mental illness would be financially immensely beneficial to governments, and not only improve life for those afflicted, but society as a whole. Keep up the good work and good luck! Sincerely, Helen Maydwell

    • Nikki October 27, 2015, 9:39 pm

      Interesting points. Are Omega 3/6’s highly inflammatory only in the brain, not the body? I’d only heard of them as anti-inflammatory for joint/arthritic pain. Love the butter, that’s one treatment I’d be happy with! Possibly ghee offers higher butyric concentration with lower cholesterol risk.

  • Alex December 11, 2013, 4:26 pm

    Great article. Yes, we should continue researching in regard to brain activity.

  • Brian Kenward January 8, 2014, 6:03 am

    I would like email updated on this subject

  • mathieu chenier January 18, 2014, 4:33 pm

    I’m pretty sure it would be smarter to invest more efforts into trying stop or slow human aging. Prevention is better.

    • SomeGuy May 6, 2014, 3:13 pm

      So you think it would be smarter to invest our time making stupid people live longer, rather than have an increasingly smarter generation of people that can live to the average age of 85? Not very logical, in my opinion.

      • Paulette A June 18, 2015, 11:10 am

        It’s not about making stupid people live longer. They are not stupid in my opinion. It’s about helping people live a longer healthier life. Everyone deserves that even people that think like you.

        • Glorp June 28, 2015, 5:28 am

          Yes but making people smarter will help achieve your intended goal faster and more easily wouldn’t it

          • Roy September 8, 2015, 9:54 am

            I think researches are a good way of exploring the chances and ways to help people in need if required. Nothing comes for free, even this comment. It is an individual’s decision whether they need to accept and live longer healthier, or to die per the current human state.

  • Kamillawright March 8, 2014, 6:51 pm

    Absolutely the study of improving brain function should continue. My mother is receiving radiation treatment for a brain tumor. I would love to know a sure fire method for healing the damage radiation has done once her treatments are completed!!!!

    • Mimi June 21, 2014, 3:56 pm

      Check out red reishi mushroom. Extract, capsule or dried. Best if from japan. You can google and it will give you many links for info on research and studies about this miraculous herb. Hope it can helps your mother.

  • Alex March 8, 2014, 10:49 pm

    I’ve been guinea pigging myself on this diet for two weeks now. I eat a punnet of blue berries, a cup of green tea, two fish oil capsules and a teaspoon of tumeric every day, go for a run-walk-run and do more aerobics after, masturbate every day (I previously almost never did this), and have sex every other day. I was already a serious stoner to begin with, and I will eat mushrooms when and if I can find them.

    But the closest substance I can find so far is DMT which I was planning on trying soon anyway. I’m doing everything on this list, basically, except for the anti-depressants, because they make me jittery and make my heart beat too hard and kill my already non-existant sex drive. Am I crazy? The answer to that question is probably yes, but I am desperate to increase my adaptability to re-enter the workforce after two years out of it.

    I suspect I have an Avoidant Personality Disorder and an Auditory Processing Disorder, and was previously misdiagnosed with ADD. I’ll let you know if this makes me sick. So far the most adverse reaction has been vomiting, due to having green tea on an empty stomach. I eat something first now, and only have the one cup, with a very strong, high quality leaf.

    • asa-mari February 8, 2015, 4:26 am

      I’d like to know how this worked for you? What if any changes to your memory/moods/ability to socialize did you experience? Sounds like an awesome experiment!

  • lib April 21, 2014, 1:08 am

    I absolutely think that this is a good thing to study. Maybe it could help with Huntington disease.

  • Charles June 8, 2014, 7:06 pm

    Forget completely about #9 and number 6 if true, may have worse side effects. The rest of the list actually has to do with mental “health,” in a bona fide medical sense, since everything that is called “disorder” or “illness” is strictly modern day witch finders at work. Zero public funds for what is called the “mental health” movement, this ends up being social and state control and the destruction of individuality.

    • john June 19, 2015, 11:36 pm

      The very last part of your post hits the nail on the head.

  • Marie July 10, 2014, 6:33 pm

    There has been a number of significant studies showing that neuro regeneration could lead to a better understanding of anxiety disorders.

  • Mikey July 17, 2014, 8:15 pm

    You guys should do the blueberries, green tea, and running because they are the easiest and fastest to do… even if do not like these things, trust me I don’t like these (exept running) but I have learn to like them… give it a try at least. -Peace

  • Heather July 21, 2014, 9:34 pm
  • judy may October 30, 2014, 12:25 am

    elderberry, avocado, DHA

  • Jason March 8, 2015, 4:30 pm

    Pqq, lions mane mushrooms, acetyl l carnitine, phosphatidylserine.

  • micah June 26, 2015, 6:24 pm

    Yes, please study this! I recently suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury and I’d love some new neurons.

  • LJM July 9, 2015, 8:40 pm

    Regarding SSRIs generating new brain cells in the hippocampus. I just read an article that said that people with chronic major depression actually have shrunken hippocampus (what’s the plural of hippocampus: hippocampi?)

  • dalia August 13, 2015, 11:04 pm

    I’m going to try these for my mom … She has Alzheimer’s and it’s starting to get worse faster.

  • david wilson September 16, 2015, 8:34 am

    I’ve been diagnosed with alcohol related ataxia. Whilst not gutter dwelling I did imbibe regularly; offered no treatment I’m self medicating – Vitamin B and exercise with an emphasis on balance. Mechanically I would like access to a human gyroscope machine, physiologically I’m interested in neurogenesis and brain plasticity, even deep brain stimulation perhaps. I want my balance back, any other suggestions? Chinese herbs ?

  • Nikki October 27, 2015, 9:23 pm

    Thanks for this article Gloom. It gives hope to someone who was told my brain was ‘permanently broken’ from developmental trauma & could never grow – I did not know the hippocampus could grow as an adult. (I hope the amygdala can be reduced in size too as life isn’t very calm with a highly sensitive one!) Wondering if Zinc supplement (or dietary) may be important for hippocampus growth as well, if there may be a link with Depression, low Zn & hippocampus healthy functioning/growth.

  • Annette Galloway October 31, 2015, 3:37 pm

    I am fixing to be 75. Does brain activity playing games as Mah Jong Titans help develop new neuron cells? I play the spider version because it is harder. Thanks!

  • SpringChicken March 16, 2016, 9:33 am

    Actually omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory (omega-6 ones are inflammatory *in excess*, it is the ratios that matter)… and yes I do recommend that one goes for a run, eats a moderate portion of blueberries or whatever else they wish from this list (except shrooms, I don’t trust them) in the next 5 hours. Especially the running bit.

    Remember that mice have mostly human DNA so if these can be backed up with clinical experience (if human research isn’t available) I’d recommend them. Actually I’d recommend seeing a qualified naturopath (Bachelor degree) who has a better understanding of neurogenesis, and probably knew about it before the mainstream.

  • Bradley April 15, 2016, 10:57 pm

    I read an article in Popular Mechanics on the positive effects of drumming on neuron growth. People just sat in a circle and tapped a drum to match the tempo of the leader, nothing complex at all. These were soldiers and others who had suffered traumatic brain injuries and strokes. People remarked that they noticed improvement. Sessions were about 30 minutes long several times a week. Might be worth looking into.

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