From a certain age onwards the brain stops growing ... how many times have we heard this statement. However, the reality seems a bit different since, as a recent scientific research shows, the brain continues to produce new neurons for the entire duration of life! The research was published by a team from Columbia University in the journal Cell Stem Cell (Boldrini et al, Cell Stem Cell, 2018).
The brain creates new neurons throughout the lifespan
Until now the topic was much debated. In fact, animal studies have shown that in rats the production of neurons decreases with age until it stops completely. As for humans, the observation that the hippocampus, the area of ??the brain responsible for memory and learning, continues to grow during adulthood was explained by stating that it is only the neurons already present that become larger or the blood vessels that widen. The reality, on the other hand, is different, as scientists from Columbia University have been able, for the first time, to study the brain by creating a vast database, unique of its kind, with information collected postmortem on brain structure and state of mental health obtained through extensive investigative work that led scientists to speak with relatives and friends of the involved people in order to assess the possible presence of a neurological problem at the time of death. What has emerged is that in all people, 14 to 79 years of age, if healthy, the brain continues to produce new neurons.
Why does the cognitive function slow down with age?
So how is it possible to explain that the cognitive function can slow down with age? The researchers managed to explain this too. It is not that the brain produces fewer neurons, but fewer blood vessels that carry oxygen to the cells and fewer connections between neurons themselves.
Little actions for the health of the brain
Now that the cause of the brain aging is clear, it is also possible to take action to counteract the damage. But this does not happen only through medicines. In fact, as Dr. Maura Boldrini, head of the study, points out, moderate physical activity, a stimulating life, for example maintaining hobbies and social contacts, and a healthy, varied and balanced diet can help keep the brain well oxygenated and to create synapses.