Adult Neurogenesis, and BDNF

Human brains generate new neurons throughout life. This miracle of lifelong brain regeneration allows lifelong learning, and is driven by complex interacting processes. One of the biological factors that can stimulate the formation of new brain neurons is the neurotrophic factor BDNF — Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor.

The neurogenesis story is not a simple one, but by focusing upon one part of it — the BDNF part — we may begin to get a grip on what keeps humans in the game, even as they age beyond their prime.

Consistent with the hypothesis that BDNF is a proneurogenic factor is evidence that neurogenesis decreases in BDNF knockout mice [136] and that increasing BDNF levels in the SVZ by adenovirus [137] or icv infusion [138, 139] increases the number of neuroblasts and new neurons in the SVZ and OB. Direct unilateral intrahippocampal infusion of BDNF increases neurogenesis in the DG, but the effect must be indirect and not by direct stimulation of progenitor cells because increased neurogenesis is evident bilaterally while exogenous BDNF appears to remain restricted to the infused hemisphere [140]. The effects of BDNF on proliferation and neurogenesis also are influenced by other factors. __

In other words, when BDNF acts to cause new brain cell generation, it acts as a “trigger” for multiple other factors and events in the brain, and does not act alone.

Nevertheless, you may want to learn various ways by which you can increase the BDNF levels in your brain:

  • Intense exercise
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Reduce sugar and saturated fats
  • Increase sunlight exposure (Vitamin D)
  • Curcumin, Green Tea, Omega 3s, Resveratrol
  • Avoid Obesity
  • Antidepressants
  • Ampakines
  • Socially Rich Environment
  • Natural Anti-inflammatory Substances

Low levels of BDNF are found in the brains of persons with schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s, and other conditions associated with neurodegeneration.

Psychedelics and BDNF

Two studies using LSD found that the psychedelic enhanced the rate at which rabbits learned a new conditioned behavior, and that higher doses resulted in faster learning. The same researchers found that MDMA, MDA, and DOM all did as well. A more recent study using psilocybin found similar results, albeit only at low doses. It’s hard to draw any strong conclusions from a handful of studies like this―it’s a long way from simple associative learning in a rabbit or rat, to a complex human behavior (like playing the piano), but it’s a start. For researchers interested in treating debilitating psychological conditions like depression using psychedelic medicines, these are enormously promising results. __

Other Intrinsic Factors Influencing Neurogenesis

  • Glucocorticoids w/ reduced neurogenesis
  • GH/IGF1 w/ increased neurogenesis
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 w/ increased neurogenesis
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor w/ increased neurogenesis
  • Epidermal Growth Factor w/ both increase and decrease
  • Transforming growth factor Beta w/ mixed effects on neurogenesis
  • Retinoic Acid w/ complex cell growth effects
  • Neurotransmitters w/ neurotrophic effects
  • Inflammatory factors w/ mostly negative effects on neurogenesis

When it comes to boosting neurogenesis and neuronal survival in the brain, moderate exercise is good, and it is inexpensive. Anti-inflammatory supplements such as curcumin are inexpensive and appear to be effective for preserving the brain into old age. One glass of red wine at night can’t hurt. 😉

An active social life helps, being sure to include persons younger than yourself — as well as some who are both older and more physically fit than yourself (inspiration).

Avoid depression whenever possible, remembering that when necessary antidepressants can boost BDNF levels and stimulate new nerve generation in the hippocampus and lateral ventricles.

New nerve cells throughout your lifespan can help you stay interested in your life and in new things and changing situations. An active and dynamic brain is less likely to become overwhelmed by the stresses and strains of daily life.

Sources: BDNF: Transducer for Antidepressant Effects Psychedelics and neurogenesis “Adult Neurogenesis” Wikipedia: BDNF

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4 Responses to Adult Neurogenesis, and BDNF

  1. Craig says:

    I’m familiar with the term neurogenesis due to a brain injury and recovery, I suffered a stroke, a type of stroke called Wallenburg’s Syndrome. It affected my core (not my limbs or cognition) and left me with a nasty cough. Any number of doctors and specialists tell me that there is nothing wrong with my throat. While environmental conditions can send me into a debilitating coughing fit what I find the most puzzling is that intense thinking/creativity/problem solving will invoke it without fail.

    The doctors can only tell me it’s the result of the way the process of neurogenesis repaired my brain to core connections. No treatment or drugs have helped in a satisfactory way..The result is coughing fits that often leave in a state of having the breath knocked out of me.

    • alfin2101 says:

      A difficult problem.

      You may eventually be helped with a brain implant. Some coughing fits share certain characteristics with an epileptic seizure or a ventricular fibrillation in the heart. Vagus nerve stimulators are used for some seizures and implanted auto-detecting defibrillators can be lifesaving — as examples of therapeutic implants. And I have no idea of what a phrenic nerve stimulator/pacer might do in a coughing fit if set to pace only during a detected fit.

      You may want to volunteer in a research study using multi-modal functional imaging in Wallenberg’s. If you can find one nearby, and can fit in the time. You may also try to get some of the better neurofeedback practitioners in your area to think about how they would approach the problem with non-invasive feedback.

  2. Craig says:

    I would seriously consider participating in a study should one present itself. I have participated in two studies to date. One was after the aforementioned stroke. The study was to determine if Plavix, a heart drug, would be effective to prevent secondary stroke. That study is probably now in the wrap up phase, but I have no contact with the study anymore. The other was for a diabetes drug (I am also diabetic). That study was abruptly stopped after about 6 months. I was never told why, but to this day I assume I was a placebo subject.

    Thanks for the thoughts on potential actions – I’ve nearly given up. None of my doctors seemed to take this problem as seriously as I thought they would – I think it’s kind of fascinating that using my noodle can spark a fit of coughing that nearly takes me out.

    • alfin2101 says:

      It is an interesting and unusual problem resulting from the neuroplasticity of brain healing after a stroke in a very sensitive part of the brain. Solving it will probably require the involvement of someone both knowledgeable and curious. Most medical doctors are too busy with all the details of practising conventional “mass medicine” to be able to spare the kind of thinking which is required.

      You would not only need to understand “where” the short-circuit is taking place, but would also need to know how to sever the connection without causing other problems perhaps as bothersome. A neuropsychologist with experience in behavioural therapies (including neurofeedback) would be a more natural fit for solving the problem than would most medical neurologists.

      Implanted nerve stimulators are a more brute force approach. An intelligent brain implant for the brainstem is even more experimental, but will probably someday become quite common for treating brain infarcts and other causes of necrosis in that area rich in nuclei and nerve tracts.

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