Could your adult brain be ‘growing’?


Neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret has a few answers for this question in her Ted Talk on how your brain is able to grow new cells. The process of your brain growing new cells, formally known as neurogenesis, is one of Dr. Thuret’s research focuses. 

The predominant area of neurogenesis in adult humans is the hippocampus. Dr. Thuret cites Jonas Frisen of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, whose research has estimated that humans produce about 700 new neurons a day in the hippocampus. And, as the hippocampus is the location of the brain associated with learning, memory, moods, and emotions; the implications of these findings are scientifically exciting. 

One of the stories that Sandrine Thuret brings up within her talk, is how a colleague working in Oncology came to her with the question of why his patients were experiencing depression after completing their chemotherapy. Dr. Thuret’s response lies in her understanding of cell growth, wherein the cell death that occurs in chemotherapy would not only halt the cancer cells from further multiplying, but also the neurogenesis in the hippocampus. 

This research is further supported in mammalian studies where lower levels of neurogenesis are associated with increased rates of depressive symptoms. 

When it comes to factors that can increase or decrease neurogenesis, Dr. Thuret lists several activities that can either aid or detract from this phenomenon. 

For individuals looking to increase neurogenesis, research shows that actively learning, being active physically, and proper dieting can be positive for new neuronal growth. At the same time, stress and sleep deprivation are both associated with a decrease in neurogenesis. 

For coaches, this provides an interesting neuroscience-based discovery. The science in this field lists several things. Firstly, that lifestyle decisions and environmental factors affect neurogenesis within the human hippocampus. Secondly, neurogenesis occurs in a brain area associated with learning, memory, moods, and emotions. In working with clients, it may be beneficial to look at their holistic experience. This experience includes not only what decisions they make, but their environments as well. Are they optimizing their environment to best support their brains ability to create new neurons? 

If you would like to watch Dr. Sandrine Thuret’s full talk, you can find it here:

IOC's Tips of the Week are authored by Austin Matzelle