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So get out there and walk / bike / swim / dance / play tennis… whatever makes your heart beat faster 🙂  AND don’t forget to ENRICH your minds too – you gotta do both!

To boost my memory, I am going for a run. My dogs’ memories will get a boost, too, as they bound through the woods chasing squirrels. Over the past two decades, neuroscientists have discovered that new nerve cells (neurons) are constantly being born in one tiny area of the brain crucial for learning and memory—and that physical exercise promotes the numbers of these newborn neurons.

Neuroscientists Henriette van Praag, Gerd Kempermann and Fred H. Gage at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., wanted to identify the conditions congenial to the birth and maturation of new neurons. In their experiments, they provided one group of rodents with a running wheel while another group remained idle

To address the question of maturity, the researchers tracked the fate of new neurons. Most do die, but an enriched environment can enhance the neurons’ survival rate. For rodents, that means having lots of novel objects to explore, also cage mates to interact with and running wheels to play on. About five times as many newborn neurons survived in the exploring rats as in the unengaged rats.

In tests of spatial memory, the rodents in the enriched condition regularly outperformed their brethren. This strongly implies that mature new neurons have been integrated into the circuitry and actively contribute to learning new facts and events. Physical exercise and enrichment interact synergistically, so combining the two may be most beneficial.

Apart from exercise and enrichment, other factors can enhance the progression from neuron birth to full installation in the circuitry—among them, surprisingly, antidepressants such as Prozac. Berries, grapes, chocolate and tea—all rich in molecules called flavonoids—have been linked to improved spatial learning behavior in rodents and humans. On the other hand, stress suppresses the proliferation of new neurons, as do alcohol and high doses of nicotine.

Read the full article: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-power-of-brains-to-keep-growing-1441293338

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