You may have heard that the brain shrinks as we get older. It can. It can even shrink in younger people under certain circumstances. But it doesn’t have to. There are simple things you can do to actually grow your brain and make it better than it was when you were younger! Does your brain grow? Yes, yes it can!
It’s called neurogenesis, an increase in neurons and neuronal pathways in three areas of the brain but Dr. Majid Fotuhi (2018) also shows the physical size of the hippocampus can increase. The hippocampus, cerebral cortex (outer covering), and most recently discovered, the amygdala, can actually grow (Queensland Brain Institute, 2018).
This is all pretty new research. In fact, there is still some controversy in the science world. However, as shown in Dr Fotuhi’s video (below), there is actual evidence. He shows brain imagery of people’s brains before and after certain behaviors and exercises.
The hippocampus is our center for learning and memory. So the fact we can grow our hippocampus is incredible.
The cerebrel cortex is responsible for sensation, language, creativity, motor processes, memory, abstraction, emotion, attention, and judgement.
And the amygdala plays a key role in the processing of emotions.
There are several buzz words in the medical brain world which seem linked together. All describe the brain’s ability to adapt, grow, and thrive in different ways. Neurogenesis, neuroplasticity and cognitive reserve. We’ll talk about these a bit and then go into how to grow your brain.
Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Reserve
The reason I’m bringing these terms into the conversation is that neurogenesis, neuroplasticity, and cognitive reserve can all be increased with the same methods. They are also equally important.
Neuroplasticity is one of the buzz words in the neurology world: the ability of the brain to change continuously throughout an individual’s life. I also like this definition: The ability of the nervous system to adapt to trauma or disease; the ability of nerve cells to grow and form new connections to other neurons (Medical dictionary, n.d.). This is what makes us resilient and adaptable and our brains so amazing.
Cognitive reserve is another buzz word neurologists have demonstrated as extremely important for brain health. Cognitive reserve is growing our brain as well, so that in case of brain injury, the brain has ‘reserves’ allowing it to adapt and function using a different part of the brain than it previously did. Esther Heerema, MSW, wrote in an article (2019) that exercising the brain and building cognitive reserve is like training for a 10k race by running 12k practice runs. Keep your brain active and engaged in stimulating activities. And follow the suggestions below.
Now let’s talk about how…
How To Grow Your Brain
1. Exercise – Regular sustained exercise does grow your brain. Exercise increases oxygen and blood flow to your brain and studies have shown it does increase the size of the cortex and hippocampus. Read my article on ways to incorporate more exercise in your life.
All of the brain function heavy hitters can’t say enough about the importance of exercise on brain function. Dancing is shown to be one of the best exercises for the brain as it engages more parts of your brain: kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional (Nguyen, 2017).
2. Omega 3s – DHA and EPA are the primary Omega 3s for brain health. They are building blocks for the brain. Since our brains are primarily made of lipids, adding the good lipids helps grow your brain. You can read my articles on DHA and the Brain and How to Prevent Dementia and Alzheimer’s for more information.
3. Learn Something New – Learning increases the synapses in our brains and makes new connections. Learning another language or just increasing your vocabulary are very effective.Save on Rosetta Stone 3-Month Subscription Rosetta Stone offers many language lessons you can use on your phone so you can keep learning no matter where you are. You could also learn a new hobby. Take an art class. Learn an instrument. What have you always wanted to learn? You’re on the right path if you’re here learning about brain function. 🙂
4. Meditation – Meditation and mindfulness can change the chemistry in our brains. It can reduce our stress hormone, Cortisol, and even reduce depression, stress, and anxiety. I have a simple guide to Mindfulness here.
Video: Yes, You CAN Grow Your Brain by Dr. Majid Fotuhi
5. Sleep – Sleep is the ultimate way to repair and detox the brain. When you’re sleeping, your brain goes to work, clearing out what it doesn’t need anymore and repairing. It’s imperative to get enough sleep. Many doctors say 7-8 hours per night. I have an article on Getting to Sleep Easier here.
6. Read Fiction – Thai Nguyen, in his article (2017), shared that reading fiction is shown to increase brain connections. A study by Emory University showed enhanced brain activity in a group of students who all read the same novel over 19 days. Reading fiction transports you into a different time and place and into a different mental state.
7. Have a Purpose – Follow your passion. What are you passionate about? What makes you get up in the morning? Find it and go after it. Dr Fotuhi shares that having a purpose will grow your brain. I have found mine in researching and sharing brain information with you, dear reader.
I created a website on how to build a website around pursuing your passion. This keeps you studying and learning and sharing your passion as well.
Does Your Brain Grow? Yes, If…
So we’ve learned that we can grow our brains. Part of the key is keeping our brains active. We can grow our hippocampus and increase learning and memory. We can grow our cerebral cortex and improve multiple areas of brain function. And enhance our amygdala and improve our emotional response.
There are some pretty simple ways to accomplish this and grow your brain, increase neuroplasticity and cognitive reserve. I think some brain-boosting supplements also help. I know they do for me. Look around mywellbrain and see what supplements I recommend for boosting your brain and improving your memory and brain function.
I hope you enjoyed this journey down the brain growth pathway. It’s exciting to know that so much progress has been made in brain research. And I’m sure there will be much more to come in the near future.
Thank you for reading today! If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions, please feel free to leave them in the Comments section below. Thank you.
Heerema, E. (2019). How Cognitive Reserve Affects Alzheimer’s Disease. Retrieved January 19, 2020 from https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-cognitive-reserve-98397
neuroplasticity. (n.d.). Medical Dictionary. (2009). Retrieved January 19, 2020 from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/neuroplasticity
Nguyen, T. (2017). 10 Proven Ways To Grow Your Brain: Neurogenesis and Neuroplasticity. Retrieved January 19, 2020 from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/10-proven-ways-to-grow-yo_b_10374730
Queensland Brain Institute. (2018). Adult neurogenesis. Retrieved January 18, 2020 from https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain-basics/brain-physiology/adult-neurogenesis