Is it possible for adults to grow new neurons? Though many believe no, recent research has shown not only is it possible, but adults constantly do grow new neurons in a process known as neurogenesis. Neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret says yes, we can in a 2015 TED talk given in London.

Though neuron growth in adults has long been disregarded, recent research has shown that neurogenesis (the scientific term for new neuron growth) does, in fact, take place in adults. Thuret explains that neurogenesis primarily takes place in the hippocampus, a small structure mostly known for its association with memory and mood, with newly developed cells emigrating to the site of injury to differentiate into mature neurons within 7-10 days. TBI has also been associated with other recovery processes, including angiogenesis, synaptogenesis and axonal remodelling, all of which designed to mitigate damage.

What’s more is that we can affect the rate of neurogenesis – living healthy lives and eating certain foods can promote neuron growth, while other activities can negatively impact this process. Learning, sex and exercise promote neurogenesis, while stress and aging hinder it. Decreased caloric intake, flavonoids (dark chocolate or blueberries) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon) all increase rates of neurogenesis, while high saturated fat and alcohol consumption slow down this process.

Thuret highlights a study done at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies which tested and examined neuron growth in two groups of mice. A control group was compared with a ‘runner’ group in which the mice ran in their cage regularly. They found a significantly increased amount of neurons in the runner group compared to the control, indicating the benefit of aerobic exercise for neurogenesis.

Neurogenesis has also been associated with many neurological diseases by acting as an endogenous recovery process for the brain. Though your body does its best to mitigate damage and avoid injury, you can help by eating healthy, exercising regularly and avoiding stress.


All images are taken from Sandrine Thuret’s TED talk

Cell, 2014. Source