Previously, neuroanatomists such as Santiago Ramon Cajal believed the nervous system was a fixed system that was not capable of regeneration and that neurogenesis in humans and other animals no longer continued after the embryonic development phase. However, in the second half of the 20th century, researchers discovered that neurons do continue to form throughout life.
This new understanding that adult neurogenesis both takes place and forms functional neurons led scientists to wonder what role the process plays in cognition, what its effects are on cognitive health and whether the process could be altered to improve cognitive health as humans age.
In 2005, researchers found that exercise had significant positive effects on neurogenesis. In 2009, a study showed why adult brain neurogenesis may be needed. One location where neurogenesis takes place is in a region of the hippocampus referred to as the dentate gyrus, which is vital in allowing the brain to differentiate between similar memories such as where a person has placed their car keys one day as opposed to the day before.
A landmark study in 2013 created a model of cell turnover in the hippocampus over the human lifespan based on estimates of neuronal ageing in the hippocampus of post-mortem brain samples. The study showed significant neurogenesis took place in this brain region, suggesting the process is a big contributor to brain function.
Since 1962, when Altman first attempted to provide evidence for neurogenesis in adults, the development of more sophisticated tools and technologies has enabled scientists to better understand this process and make discoveries about its impact on cognitive health and the ageing brain; discoveries that researchers will continue to build on to establish strategies that may help to prevent cognitive decline in the future.
We need to focus on:
- hearts (working the heart muscle like in chair jogging)
- lungs (expanding the lung capacity with stretching and controlled breathing)
- strength (poses that require muscle work and balance)
Exercise, especially in a group, has proven positive effects on mood and well-being.
Have you tried chair yoga as a way of keeping active?