Your doctor probably hasn’t told you, but your brain has a superpower that allows your memory to stay healthy at any age—as long as you keep fueling the process. That power is the ability of neurons to reorganize themselves – a process known as neuroplasticity.
And it’s quite a gift. Because it’s this skill at forming new neuronal networks that allows us to learn new information, create new memories, develop new skills, and recover from health mishaps like strokes and brain injuries.
However, as the years go by, it’s important to boost your brain’s neuroplasticity superpower. It’s kind of a “use it or lose it” proposition. So, let me show you some easy ways to avoid losing this crucial mind-saving power.
Medical experts used to believe that the brain could not change much once we reach adulthood. But the Spanish researcher and Nobel Prize winner Santiago Ramón y Cajal, who is known as the father of neuroscience, first talked about neuronal plasticity in the early 1900s.
Still, it wasn’t until 1948, after a Polish researcher described neuroplasticity, that other scientists began to adequately understand how the brain could reorganize itself and grow new neural networks. Soon, neuroplasticity became accepted as an important central feature of the brain that, in a healthy brain, persists into old age.
The Ever-Changing Brain
Today, studies show that when your brain slips in its neuroplastic abilities, you may be more vulnerable to depression, dementia, and other serious problems.1 Do the right exercises – brain workouts and physical activity – and consume the right nutrients and your brain can retain its neuroplasticity.
Neglect those things and… it’s like exposing Superman to kryptonite.
If you want to protect your brain’s neuroplasticity, a good place to start is with your diet. A simple measure you can take immediately is to eat more apples. Research involving scientists in Germany and Australia demonstrates that apples are full of natural compounds that stimulate the growth of new neurons – a process called neurogenesis.2
As the researchers point out, “Neurogenesis is a particular form of brain plasticity in which functional neurons are generated throughout life and integrated into the existing (neuronal) circuitry.”
Other tests have found that strawberries and blueberries can also help to spur neuroplasticity.3
Vitamins Are Vital For The Brain
If you’re looking for supplements that can help keep your neurons efficient at their reorganization efforts, the B vitamins are particularly important. In laboratory tests designed to find which nutrients were effective at restoring neuroplasticity after a stroke, scientists in Canada found that choline and folate helped recovery and reduced harmful oxidative stress.4 And tests in France show that B12 is also crucial for keeping neuroplasticity on track.5
While researchers have found that vitamin C is generally important for brain health, they’re not sure if it supports better neuroplasticity. Scientists who have reviewed studies of this nutrient say there’s not yet enough evidence to say that it’s central to supporting the formation of new neural networks.6
Moving And Learning To Rebuild The Brain
As I’ve pointed out before in previous issues, exercising both your brain tissue and your muscles is important for supporting your neurons as they set up new networks. For example, activities like learning a new language,7 being taught how to play a musical instrument,8 or memorizing lines for a play can trigger your brain cells to form new connections that keep your brain malleable and safer from losing its ability to pick up new knowledge.
And when you walk, run, bike, lift weights or do other exercise, your muscles send cellular messages to your brain that help it stay more plastic.9
Other studies are now closing in on understanding how the probiotic bacteria in our digestive tract likewise play a role in promoting the brain’s reorganizational superpower.10 While this research hasn’t pinned down exactly how this gut-brain connection functions, it’s more evidence that eating a healthy diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables can feed these beneficial bacteria and support improved brain health. On the other hand, eating a fast-food-filled, overly processed, sugar-laden diet can sabotage this invaluable ability of the brain.11
The Future Of Neuroplasticity
On another note – controversial research is ongoing to see how the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD, psilocybin and ayahuasca (a plant-based psychedelic usually brewed into a tea) can help neurons in their reorganizational skills. As you might guess, this research is in the early stages and these drugs must be used with great caution. I’m certainly not endorsing those drastic measures.
If you want to keep your brain in good shape, you need to incorporate lifestyle measures such as consuming the right nutrients and engaging in regular exercise. This is the safest and best way to maintain your neuroplasticity superpower for making new neural networking connections.
The Awakening From Alzheimer’s Team