Six rules to regenerate your brain

Are you just in your fifties or maybe even past that age? You probably would not imagine that in this region of your brain called thesea ​​horse, a key structure for the formation of your memories and for the good management of your emotions, all the neurons present at the time of your birth have since been replaced by neurons freshly produced from stem cells of the brain.

Ne all have the potential to regenerate our brains, at any age. Only there are conditions to be met so that this fountain of youth can flow, as research on animals shows. Take a mouse from a standard farm and place it in a cage devoid of congeners, sanitized, with invariant food, with no objects to discover during its explorations. Basically hell and prison, in his life as a mouse. You will find that within two to three weeks, the production of new neurons in his brain will have been reduced by 50%. This unfortunate mouse, you will also stress it and you will see that this production will disappear completely.

Take the same mouse and place it this time in an enriched, stimulating universe. You will place new objects in her cage, congeners with whom she can communicate on a daily basis. You will offer her some physical exercise, by installing a small wheel on which she will be able to train. In the space of a few weeks, it will have tripled the production rate of new neurons. In the first experiment, we see that the brain is destroyed by the effect of the routine. In the second, we realize that the brain feeds on change.

A nursery with neurons in our brain

This is true because we house in our brain a kind of nursery in which are housed neuronal stem cells. The same ones that made it possible to build our brains at the embryonic age and that we took with us after birth. Thanks to this device, at the very moment you are reading me, new neurons are springing up in your brain. But to produce them, there are six principles to satisfy. And it is not sitting down without doing anything that will happen ...

First principle: you have to be open to change and avoid routine. Socrates tells us: wisdom begins with wonder. We are talking about thewonder of learning and understanding. It is about respecting the libido sciendi, the desire to learn and to understand specific to the human being.

Let's move on to the second principle. The brain is malleable because it is "informable". This is indeed the information that invites our brain circuits to regenerate, but what kind of information are we talking about? Today we are facing a real problem. We live in a digital ecosystem so without doing anything, we are bombarded with information. We must learn to fight against this overflow. We subscribe to blogs, letters. Our phones are ringing, vibrating. We realize that this type of information, which just leads us to know, is deleterious.

The brain bombarded with information, who knows but does not understand, is doomed to anxiety. As a subject I become a spectator, instead of being an actor. It is important for all of us to sort out the useful information, that is, the information that makes us understand, and to leave out the futile information that just makes us aware. This one, we do not want more! In other words, my second principle invites us to fight against infobesity.

 
Third principle: beware of easy temptation anxiolytics and sleeping pills. Because the objective of these substances is precisely not to let this brain emerge which seeks to understand. Do you no longer want to ruminate on your way to work? We are going to give you substances with which you are going to work in an automatic brain, this very brain which is useful for knowing but not for understanding. By taking these drugs chronically, you can no longer satisfy the first principle which is, I remind you: open yourself to change and give meaning to this change.

The fourth principle is to fight against a sedentary lifestyle. Because science tells us that with physical activity, muscles produce chemicals called trophic factors. Through the blood, these act on the brain and in particular on the nursery, the fountain of youth, and encourage it to produce more neurons. There is a direct correlation betweenmuscle activity and the production of new neurons. So choose walking, rather than the subway or the car.

Exposing oneself to others

Fifth principle: take note that our brain is a true echo chamber of the other, of our neighbor. We do not have control over certain parts of our brain, whose commitment depends on exposure to others, the alter ego. This is called, globally, the social brain. In other words, the more you cultivate your otherness, flee isolation, the more your brain will be inclined to produce new neurons.

There is still a sixth principle to be observed. Very recently, neurosciences associated with microbiology have taught us that there is a intestinal flora whose communication with the brain is permanent. Depending on your diet, especially if you consume fiber and a varied diet, you will encourage the proliferation of certain bacterial species which will contribute to this proliferation of neurons. Conversely, if your food becomes unvaried, rich in sugar and fat, you will promote the proliferation of bacterial species which are real locks, blocking the production of new neurons, whatever your age.

The ancient quest for immortality

Here are the six principles stated, it is now up to you to use this potential. Of course, when we talk about stem cells and neurogenesis, which is neuron production in the course of life, that probably resonates with you. We are immersed in the myths that accompanied the birth of civilization, at the time of the invention of writing by the Sumerian people - the famous epic of Gilgamesh, this legendary tale of the quest for immortality, or closer to us, the famous Goethe Faust. These are parables about the suffering of humanity that sees a possible redemption through eternity.

Far from me the idea of ​​coming to nourish or prolong these myths! In fact, here we are faced with a scientific discovery which carries with it all the ferments of a real scientific revolution, calling to renewal of educational methods, of an objective definition of the famous well-being in terms of mental health, to invent new therapeutic strategies, both on a neurological and psychiatric level, mainly mood disorders, based on the presence of these neuronal stem cells .

The ConversationEveryone at our level, we have the power to take advantage of this scientific revolution, personally, but also vis-à-vis others. Goethe's famous maxim says: Treat people the way they should be and help them become what they can be. This power, you hold it in your hands. Enjoy!

Pierre-Marie Lledo, Neurobiologist, Pasteur Institute

La original version of this article was posted on The Conversation.

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