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Losing Neurons as You Age and What You Can Do About it
Author: Dawn Flemming
November 1st, 2019
Categories : Depression & Anxiety

Neurogenesis is the loss of the production of neurons. Here is how you can reverse the decline.

 By Dawn Flemming

Neurogenesis is the production of new neurons in the brain. A generation ago, we thought that the body did not make any new neurons after birth. Now we know that the brain produces new neurons in the hippocampus until the day we die. However, there are certain factors that may interrupt or slow its process. Aging is a factor which causes a decline in neurogenesis.

The decline in neurogenesis has been linked to the rise in depression as well as cognitive impairment such as loss of focus and memory.

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A 2014 study showed that:

New neurons are continuously generated and added to neural circuits in the adult brain. However, increasing age imposes changes in neural progenitor cells and their microenvironment that lead to a reduction of neurogenesis. Age-related decreased production of new neurons in the neurogenic dentate gyrus has been associated with memory impairments. 

One may think that a simple solution to combat depression as a result of the decline in neurogenesis is to take antidepressants. But studies show that the decline in neurogenesis may numb and counter the effects of antidepressants thereby possibly making them useless:

Neurogenesis also plays an important role in mood regulation. The dorsal hippocampus is believed to be important for memory formation and retrieval, whereas its ventral part is essential for emotions [25]. Neurogenesis facilitates the effect of several antidepressants, is necessary for certain antidepressants to function, and buffers stress-induced depressive-like behaviour in mice [25,26]. Blocking hippocampal neurogenesis by X-irradiation can abrogate the beneficial effects of antidepressants [25]. Moreover, it has been shown that some mechanisms of antidepressant actions in behavioural tests are neurogenesis dependent, whereas others are neurogenesis independent

There are ways to counter the decline in neurogenesis in the brain. Neurologists have recommended the following:

  • Better diet, higher fiber
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Exercise
  • 8 hours of sleep
  • Meditation
  • Learning new thinks, especially those that require more cognitively demanding tasks

If you are experiencing depression as a senior, you may want to consult with your neurologist and see if you should be referred for a psychiatric evaluation.

Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.


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