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In her lab at King’s College London, neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret studies how new brain cells are created in the adult nervous system through a process called neurogenesis. This phenomenon is unique to the hippocampal region of the brain, an area that is involved in memory and mood. Through her research, Thuret hopes to discover how we create new nerve cells throughout our lives, how food, activity and other factors affect this growth, and how diseases such as Alzheimer’s impact our brain’s ability to continue growing new cells.
The primary function of the hippocampus is to consolidate short-term memories into long-term memories, but it also plays an important role in spatial navigation, learning, mood and emotion. It is estimated that 700 new neurons develop in the hippocampus daily; by the time we are 50 years old, all of the neurons in our hippocampus will be completely new, replacing the ones we developed as children.
The creation of these new nerve cells is important for learning new memories, as well as the capacity and quality of memories. Neurogenesis has also been found to lower levels of depression. Antidepressants decrease symptoms of depression while increasing neurogenesis, proving a clear link between the two. This is likely a result of the hippocampus being closely tied to mood and emotions.
So the question to ask is: Can we control how many nerve cells our brain creates? We know from our Balanced Care Method™ that one-third of our healthy longevity is based on genetics and two-thirds on lifestyle factors within our control. Fortunately, the same concept can be applied to neurogenesis. Learning and physical activity increase neurogenesis, while stress and sleep deprivation decrease it.
One way to take control your life and grow your brain is to create new experiences at Safari Nights at The Dallas Zoo. The whole family will enjoy some of the zoo’s wildest stars, live music and tons of entertainment. Pre-concert activities include special keeper chats, the Wonders of the Wild show, a School of Rock concert and an Animal Adventures presentation. Live bands include the Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band from New Orleans and the ultimate 10-piece party band, Limelight.