The most exciting parts of the brain when it comes to neurogenesis — and this is the hippocampus. So this is this gray structure in the center of the brain. And what we’ve known already for very long, is that this is important for learning, memory, mood and emotion. However, what we have learned more recently is that this is one of the unique structures of the adult brain where new neurons can be generated. And if we slice through the hippocampus and zoom in, what you actually see here in blue is a newborn neuron in an adult mouse brain. So when it comes to the human brain which produces 700 new neurons per day in the hippocampus…
So why are these new neurons important and what are their functions? First, we know that they’re important for learning and memory. if we block the ability of the adult brain to produce new neurons in the hippocampus, then we block certain memory abilities. And this is especially new and true for spatial recognition .We are still learning a lot, and neurons are not only important for memory capacity, but also for the quality of the memory. And they will have been helpful to add time to our memory and they will help differentiate very similar memories, like: how do you find your bike that you park at the station every day in the same area, but in a slightly different position?
So activity impacts neurogenesis, but that’s not all. What you eat will have an effect on the production of new neurons in the hippocampus. So here we have a sample of diet — of nutrients that have been shown to have efficacy.
:Calorie restriction of 20 to 30 percent will increase neurogenesis. Intermittent fasting — spacing the time between your meals — will increase neurogenesis. Intake of flavonoids,which are contained in dark chocolate or blueberries, will increase neurogenesis. Omega-3 fatty acids, present in fatty fish, like salmon, will increase the production of these new neurons. Conversely, a diet rich in high saturated fat will have a negative impact on neurogenesis. Ethanol — intake of alcohol — will decrease neurogenesis. However, not everything is lost; resveratrol, which is contained in red wine, has been shown to promote the survival of these new neurons. soft diet impairs neurogenesis, as opposed to food that requires mastication — chewing — or crunchy food.
So all of this data, where we need to look at the cellular level, has been generated using animal models. But this diet has also been given to human participants, and what we could see is that the diet modulates memory and mood in the same direction as it modulates neurogenesis, such as: calorie restriction will improve memory capacity, whereas a high-fat diet will exacerbate symptoms of depression — as opposed to omega-3 fatty acids, which increase neurogenesis, and also help to decrease the symptoms of depression. So we think that the effect of diet on mental health, on memory and mood, is actually mediated by the production of the new neurons in the hippocampus. And it’s not only what you eat, but it’s also the texture of the food, when you eat it and how much of it you eat.