Neurogenesis: How Meditation Increases Brain Cells – EOC Institute
Neurogenesis: How Meditation Increases Brain Cells
Harnessing Neurogenesis: How To Change The Adult Brain Through Meditation
There are certain things we can't do. We can’t walk on walls. We can’t run a two minute mile. We can’t change our brain... Or can we?
While it was once enshrined within generations of handed-down scientific dogma that our brains did not change much after birth, recent breakthrough studies have proven otherwise. We DO have the power to make our brains better. In the scientific sense at least, we can move mountains.
How far can we take our brain? A groundbreaking, bestselling book by Canadian-born psychiatrist Norman Doidge M.D., "The Brain That Changes Itself" dives into just how malleable our brains really are, full of stories and real world examples of people taking a jackhammer to "carved in stone" scientific doctrine.
Like what? Blind people learning to see, learning disorders cured, IQs dramatically raised, old brains renewed, stroke patients regaining their abilities, severe anxiety melted, deep depression lifted, character flaws fixed, "permanent" disabilities reversed, the list goes on.
How about being born with literally half a brain? No problem, you too can become a high functioning adult. The stories contained within this book are both awe-inspiring and incredibly motivating.
Here, we will discuss the massive implications of being able to generate fresh neurons through a process known as "neurogenesis," and how you can harness your own innate brain transforming ability for many wonderful benefits.
What Is Neurogenesis?
During your mom’s final month of pregnancy, your "in the womb" neuron total peaked at a whopping 1 trillion! Don’t get a big head though, because you only have around 10% of that number today — the normal human adult brain harbors roughly 100 billion neurons, give or take.
Your current fixed number of neurons work kind of like an hour glass, beginning with a full supply at birth, dwindling away little by little as you go about your life. At least, that is the old world view before a landmark 1998 study published in the Nature Medicine journal revolutionized neuroscience.
Through what scientists call "Neurogenesis," the study found that the brain CAN regenerate neurons. We no longer have just a finite supply at birth, nor do our brains have to suffer from the inevitable crumbling, falling apart, and overall degradation that comes as father time takes his toll.
Being able to harness our brain's built-in ability to upgrade itself is great news for everybody. Brain injuries can be healed, brain aging can be reversed, memory and intelligence are not predetermined.
How To Maximize Neurogenesis
There is a key to unlocking the vast benefits of neurogenesis. It doesn’t just magically happen on it’s own. At least, not to the degree where a significant result can be seen in your life.
The 12 hour per day TV watching, ultra-sedentary couch potato needs to do certain things to counteract his unhealthy lifestyle. He needs to "hit the gym," training his muscles, lungs, and heart through proper resistance and cardiovascular exercises.
Likewise, when it comes to the brain "use it or lose it" works just like the body. The brain is not hardwired or any more permanently set than the size, endurance, and strength of your triceps, biceps, quads, or abs. Your brain needs proper stimulus to fully harness the effect of neurogenesis.
The Neurogenesis Top Dog
While working on crossword puzzles, learning a foreign language, playing an instrument, creating art, or doing calculus in your spare time will certainly help your brain generate fresh neurons, there is something better than the rest. There is a "brain-building" king of the hill.
Then, what’s the very best way to harness the brain’s ability to reinvent itself while taking full advantage of the wonderful array of benefits neurogenesis has to offer?
Meditation. If you want to boost your memory, multiply your learning ability, send your IQ to the moon, perfect your mental health, all while becoming a much happier and healthier person — then meditation is your number one draft pick.
Meditation Will Multiply Your Neurons
Any good farmer knows that to maximize his bottom line he must ensure his harvest is bountiful. He needs to use the healthiest seeds, the correct type of fertilizer, the right amount of water, while hoping the weather plays nice. Like the farmer, to reach your smartest, happiest, and healthiest bottom line you need to maximize your neuron yield.
Luckily, meditation plants the healthiest neurological seeds, fertilizes with the best neurochemicals, stimulates your brain in the most precise of ways, while providing the most utopian environment for neurogenesis to flourish. Meditation is an all in one solution, ensuring your silo is always brimming with neurons.
Scientists have shown that neurogenesis happens in one especially prominent brain region — the hippocampus. We have highlighted some of the benefits below:
The Hippocampus & Depression
Depression is not just a disease that makes us feel blue. After MRI imaging the brains of 10 major clinical depression sufferers, a prominent 1996 University of Washington (St. Louis) study found that one particular brain region had downgraded in a couple major ways.
The study found that the participants "hippocampi" had managed to shrink while having fewer overall brain cells — the complete opposite of neurogenesis. This underdeveloped brain region helps explain why so many depressed folks also experience short and long term memory loss, disorientation, confusion, with a poor ability to cope with stress.
The cherry on top, their magnitude of brain cell loss was directly tied to "number of days" since their official depression diagnosis. It got worse over time. Don’t let this get you down, though. It can be reversed.
Then, what’s the best way to rebuild the hippocampus, while doing a depressed brain about-face? Meditation.
Harnessing Neurogenesis For Depression
Meditation has been proven time and time again (including a 2007 University of Geissen, Germany study) to harness the power of neurogenesis to build a better, healthier, and happier brain.
While depression medication like SSRIs work to combat the brain cell death that ultimately leads to depression, meditation serves as a superior, all natural alternative. Would you rather take a side-effect ridden pill to feel better for a few hours? Or become permanently happy and bulletproof to stress through meditation?
By boosting the neural thickness, density, neuron count, and overall size of your hippocampus, meditation elevates your brain higher and higher above the dark valley of depression.
Better Thinking, Less Depression
Mindfulness really gets dull senses reactivated: food tastes better, your smell improves (the olfactory bulb is a hugely influenced by neurogenesis), your higher awareness makes the formerly boring and mundane forever fresh and new, your wider perspective deepens your understanding of world happenings.
The simple act of observing your mind through meditation increases both the potency and frequency of your positive thoughts. As a result, the formation of fresh hippocampal neurons activate — making positive experiences the norm rather than the exception.
Best of all, you don’t need to give up your worldly possessions or enter a Tibetan monastery to reap the massive benefits of meditation. Many studies show remarkable results after only a few short weeks of practice.
Declining Brain Function Is Not Inevitable
"I have no clue where I left my phone!"... "Where did I park again?"
When it comes to slippage of the mind, the list never ends. While we all blank on a name or forget where we left our keys from time to time, a declining memory is not an inevitable part of the aging process. Plenty of our golden year elders have very well preserved memories.
Then, why do some of us have problems recalling our coworkers names while others can remember 200 digits of Pi? It’s all about neurogenesis.
A landmark academic paper, "Memory, Hippocampus, and Brain Systems" illustrated how critical the hippocampus is to learning and memory. By pinpointing this critical brain region, world-renowned psychiatrist UC San Diego Doctor Larry Squire’s monumental research is especially important for those of us looking to store more info, get better grades, and/or climb the career ladder.
If only it was possible to build up a big and strong hippocampus? After all, who doesn’t want to be super smart? You can! Through meditation.
Harnessing Neurogenesis For Learning & Memory
Harvard neuroscientist Dr Sara Lazar has become an academic legend by studying the brains of meditation practitioners. One of many monumental findings, she found that their brains, time and time again — have powerfully built hippocampi.
This brain region is especially "neuroplastic," meaning that it increases in gray matter density, size and strength through certain types of training, with meditation occupying the top slot. You know how doing pushups builds up your chest, shoulders, and triceps? Like that, but meditation does it for your brain.
Ever pay a visit to the memory bank to find that your deposit has been stolen? The "weak hippocampus" bandit strikes us all from time to time. The neurogenesis achieved through meditation employs an always on the watch memory vault guarding "neuron police force" — guaranteeing great brain function while forever protecting the peace.
Meditation removes the brain clouds and brain fog when attempting to recall all information, no matter the complexity: that guy’s name from last year's Halloween party, your 8th grade English teacher’s name, the list of new HTML5 code tags, the amino acid details and characteristics for your upcoming biology exam, etc.
Super Nourished Neurons
Every couple of years we hear of the shipwrecked sailor, forced to drift the great ocean aimlessly for months, riding the current to some ultra remote island — down to just skin and bones upon re-entering society. Sometimes it’s the story of the "no survival skill" hiker, lost in the forest — rummaging and scavenging to stay alive. Emerging from the great wilderness weeks later, emaciated and gaunt, a shell of his former self.
What’s the link? Like the malnourished survivor, many people who begin meditation report that the ancient practice, like a kind of "quantum IV," infuses their "starved" brains with all the right nutrients. Meditation has given more life than the Red Cross.
Unlike the above example, you are currently a shell of your FUTURE self. You are a mere reflection of what you could be and should be — a small percentage of your incredible potential. Meditation serves as the perfect bridge to close that gap, no matter the gulf.
The ancient mind practice feeds your brain a perpetual 3-Star-Michelin feast. Better memory, focused attention, super concentration, deep and accurate information processing, are all on the meditative breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu.
Busting Neuron Barriers
With all of the extra oxygen, nutrients, and blood flow to the brain, meditation ensures that the eventual 100 billion neurons that we supposedly "end up" with, the so called "final number" for life, are actively maintained and pruned with incredible precision.
Above and beyond, meditation takes full advantage of the brain's phenomenal ability to go way over that supposedly fixed 100 billion mythical neuron limit that scientists of yesteryear once believed as gospel.
Is it any wonder that so many ridiculously successful people claim meditation as the number one reason for their success? An upgraded brain, with a foundation of forever fresh neurons, can work wonders in whatever walk of life or field of work you find yourself.