Did you know that your brain health is not definitive? Just because a family member has Alzheimer’s disease does not guarantee that you will too. There IS something you can do about it. Check out my latest article on Brain Health to learn more!
By: Angela Joy
Increasing research is being done on brain health, specifically neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. Recent findings have concluded that though there is no definitive cure for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or dementia, neurogenesis of the brain cells is possible! Confirming that brain health can be improved and potentially regenerated.
Neurogenesis is defined as the formation of new neurons in the brain, as stated by an article published by the Queensland Brain Institute in Australia. The article goes on to state that neuroscientists have discovered stem cells within adult brains, confirming that adult neurogenesis is now recognized as a “normal process that occurs in the healthy brain.”
The neurogenesis process can occur in any area of the brain, however in terms of its impact on neurodegenerative diseases specifically AD, the area of the brain we want to focus on most is the hippocampus. You may have heard of the hippocampus. It is a small organ in the medial temporal lobe of the brain, which is part of the limbic system. It regulates emotions, plays an important role in spatial navigation, in addition to its incredibly important role in memory (specifically long-term memory), among many other things.
In the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) the hippocampus is one of the first areas of the brain that is affected. A recent study stated that “the hippocampus is one of the most affects areas in AD.” The study, published March 25, 2019 in the journal of Nature Medicine, discussed the process of adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) and the correlation of AD development.
Throughout the progression of the study it was discovered that “… the number and maturation of these neurons progressively declined as AD advanced.” In other words, as the neurons in the hippocampus formed, the development of Alzheimer’s disease declined. Furthermore, as Alzheimer’s disease developed in an individual it was concluded that hippocampal neuron development decreased.
Therefore, the study findings state that, “Restoration of normal levels of AHN in these patients emerges as a potential therapeutic approach to counteract the progression of this as yet incurable disease.”
So, how can we promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus?
A 2016 study found that the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) can promote neurogenesis in addition to the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. BDNF, which is encoded by the BDNF gene, is a member of the neurotropic family of growth factors in the body, specifically the brain and periphery.
The study states that BDNF is “expressed in areas that are vital for learning, memory, and executive function (i.e. hippocampus, cortex and basal forebrain). It is also expressed in peripheral tissues such as kidneys and prostate and in blood and saliva.”
In this 2016 study published in the American Academy of Neurology, the authors examined the expression of BDNF in the brains of 535 elderly participants annually for six years, measuring cognitive decline and dementia. Following their deaths, a neuropathic assessment was completed.
The results of the longitudinal study found that “high brain BDNF expression was associated with slower rate of cognitive decline during life.” The study measured BDNF levels among those with AD, dementia, and those with normal cognitive function. Those with Dementia expressed slower cognitive decline when higher levels of BDNF was present.
In summary, the study findings “promote the idea that increasing BDNF gene expression might be a reasonable therapeutic strategy for AD in humans.”
How can we increase BDNF in humans?
Physical activity has been found to be one of the strongest methods associated with increased BDNF levels, thus decreasing rates of cognitive decline and dementia. Additional ways to increase BDNF and decrease cognitive decline include; social interaction and environmental enrichment.
Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the book, “Brain Wash,” further discusses the impact of BDNF levels and brain health. In addition to his unwavering stance on the benefits of consistent exercise and brain health, he also recommends following a more ketogenic dietary approach (decreasing carbohydrate intake and reliance on high sugar foods), circumin/turmeric supplements, DHA in the form of wild caught fish or fish oil, optimal vitamin D levels (60-90), prebiotic-rich foods, and more.
The consensus here is our brain health is not inevitable. There is something we can do about it. Our brain has the potential to regrow new neurons, thus improving memory.
Our first step, start exercising!
To learn more about your brain health, refer to the references listed below. Also, consider Dr. Dale Bredesen’s book, “The End of Alzheimer’s,” Dr. David Perlmutter’s book, “Brain Wash,” also the work of Dr. Daniel Amen. There are many more resources available on brain health and longevity, these are my favorites.