For a long time, the scientific community believed that once the brain reached maturity, the number of neurons remained fixed. However, groundbreaking discoveries in neuroscience have revealed the existence of "adult neurogenesis" — the ability of the adult brain to generate new cells. This newfound understanding has shed light on methods to support brain cell growth, particularly through the use of natural nootropics.
Today, we’re taking a deep dive into how nootropics boost neurogenesis to cultivate a healthy neural atmosphere, boost cognition, and even reduce stress.
First, let’s get some basics out of the way:
Table of Contents
Nootropics may promote neurogenesis, the creation of new brain cells, to promote enhanced cognitive flexibility and function.
Natural nootropics are an effective option with less side effects than synthetic nootropics.
Pairing nootropics with healthy lifestyle changes will have the most impact on your neural health.
What is Neurogenesis?
Neurogenesis, the creation of fresh brain cells, was previously considered limited to early development. Now, we know that adult neural stem cells play a role in maintaining and repairing brain tissues. This process, once thought impossible, holds promise for brain health and longevity.
Neurogenesis involves stem cells differentiating into neurons, a process crucial for brain repair and overall cognitive health. The exact triggers for adult neurogenesis are still being explored, but its benefits are undeniable, especially in brain regions like the hippocampus, which influences memory and learning.
Neurogenesis in the striatum has been linked to improved multi-tasking, enhanced motor skills, and enhanced motivational modulations which could help with self-motivating behaviors.
What are Nootropics?
Nootropics, often dubbed "smart drugs" or "cognitive enhancers," are a diverse group of substances, both natural and synthetic, known for their potential to boost cognitive functions such as memory, focus, creativity, and motivation.
These compounds encompass a wide range of vitamins, herbs, and synthetic substances that interact with the brain's neurotransmitters, receptors, and other molecular systems to positively influence mental performance.
The primary aim of nootropics is to support various aspects of brain health, including neurogenesis, neuronal protection, and the optimization of brain function. They do this by interacting with neurotransmitter function, altering the way that neurotransmitters are produced and used, or by acting in place of certain neurotransmitters. Best of all, nootropics can do this without significant adverse effects.
Synthetic vs Natural Nootropics
When it comes to supporting neurogenesis, natural nootropics have emerged as valuable allies–but there are many different types of nootropics and not all are made equally. More specifically, nootropics can be divided into two main categories: synthetic and natural nootropics.
Synthetic nootropics are lab-made concoctions of various bioactive substances, usually derived from or based on natural compounds. Many synthetic options are marketed for the use of boosting neurogenesis, but there isn’t as much research to support the benefits of these synthetic options as there is to support the use of many natural options.
Lion's Mane Mushroom, for instance, has gained attention for its ability to boost Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). This natural fungus not only supports neuroregeneration but also aids in enhancing mood, potentially benefiting overall cognitive health.
Rhodiola, known for its adaptogenic properties, has shown promise in promoting brain health by possibly aiding neurogenesis and protecting against cognitive decline.
Similarly, Ginseng has demonstrated potential in supporting brain functions and may contribute to neurogenesis while being associated with fewer adverse effects compared to some synthetic options.
How Do Nootropics Boost Neurogenesis?
Nootropics, known for their cognitive enhancement, play a multifaceted role in fostering neurogenesis, a process that we still don’t fully understand. Nevertheless, the evident benefits of neurogenesis are apparent for overall brain health and longevity.
As a general rule, nootropics used to boost neurogenesis do so by one of two (usually overlapping) categories:
One primary mechanism through which nootropics contribute to neurogenesis involves the modulation of crucial proteins like Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and Nerve Growth Factors (NGF). These “brain regenerators” help the nervous system grow and perform.
BDNF, a member of the neurotrophin family, impacts various aspects of neural health, from cell survival to synaptic function. Its influence extends across the brain, impacting the growth of axons, dendritic pruning, and the modulation of synaptic plasticity, which forms the bedrock of learning and memory.
The fascinating link emerges between BDNF and the specific regions where neurogenesis occurs. For instance, in the hippocampus, the birthplace of new brain cells, heightened neurogenesis directly correlates with improved memory and learning.
Conversely, in regions like the striatum, neurogenesis links to enhanced motor tasks, cognitive flexibility, and motivational pathways, thus underscoring its diverse impact on brain function.
Nootropics such as Bacopa monnieri, L-Theanine, Rhodiola Rosea, and Lion's Mane Mushroom exert their effects by not only boosting BDNF but also enhancing NGF levels.
Lion's Mane Mushroom, in particular, has shown promise in increasing neurite outgrowth, promoting myelin sheath formation, and expediting neural recovery following injury. Its active compounds, hericenones and erinacines, demonstrate a significant capacity to stimulate NGF synthesis, thus contributing to the mushroom's neuroregenerative potential.
Furthermore, many of these nootropics operate as both brain regenerators and neuroprotectors. By enhancing and safeguarding the mechanisms involved in neuronal development, maintenance, and repair, they offer a dual advantage—potentially repairing damaged cognition while fortifying the brain against future impairments.
Notably, neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret's findings underscore the profound impact of hippocampal neurogenesis on mood regulation, learning, and long-term brain health. Conversely, disruptions to neurogenesis can lead to neurodegeneration, signifying its pivotal role in age-related cognitive decline.
Understanding these intricate connections between nootropics, neurogenesis, and brain health opens doors to exploring novel avenues for cognitive enhancement and neuroprotection. As research unfolds, the potential for harnessing these compounds to not just sharpen cognition but also fortify the brain against degeneration becomes increasingly promising.
So, let’s get to the most important part:
Which Nootropics Boost Neurogenesis?
2. Bacopa monnieri
3. DHA (Omega-3)
7. N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC)
9. Rhodiola Rosea
10. Lion’s Mane
One study found that Lion’s Mane extract may encourage the growth of new nerve cells and may stimulate faster healing within the nervous system by stimulating the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Another study confirmed these effects–Lion’s mane was capable of increasing nervous system repair in rats with nerve damage compared to control subjects.
Thanks to these benefits, lion’s mane may not only be useful for healing brain damage, but it may help to improve neural pathways over time to improve all facets of cognition and processing speed.
How to Use Nootropics to Influence Neurogenesis
Consider Nootropic Stacks
Factors to Consider
- Dosage: Finding the right dosage is crucial; too little might be ineffective, while too much can lead to adverse effects. The dosage for each nootropic substance is different, and overall dosage may need to be adjusted when taking multiple nootropics substances.
- Side Effects: Understanding potential side effects helps weigh the benefits against the risks for an informed decision. Many natural nootropics are safe to take, but side effects are more likely to arise when taking too much or when combining nootropics with other medications.
- Manufacturer Suggestions: Adhering to recommended usage guidelines from reputable manufacturers ensures safety and efficacy. This is one reason it's important to choose a high quality supplement.
- Drug Interactions: Considering potential interactions with other medications is essential for overall health and safety.
Lifestyle Changes for Enhanced Neurogenesis
While natural nootropics play a significant role in supporting neurogenesis, lifestyle factors also contribute substantially. Engaging in regular aerobic exercise, for instance, has been shown to promote the production of neurotrophins, aiding in the growth of new brain cells. Additionally, certain foods may help to stimulate neurogenesis, like:
- Wild caught Fish
- Grass fed Beef
- Grass fed Dairy (milk)
- Pastured chicken & eggs
- Coconut oil
- Red Sage (Salvia)
- Goji Berries
Combining natural nootropics with brain-boosting lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a balanced diet, provides a comprehensive approach to support neurogenesis and overall brain health.
In conclusion, the field of neurogenesis has opened new doors in understanding brain plasticity and regeneration. Using nootropics, like Lion's Mane, Rhodiola, and Ginseng, to boost neurogenesis may help to boost motivation, cognitive flexibility, focus, and overall brain and body performance.
The trick is that you need to take nootropics daily to experience the benefits of neurogenesis over time. Plus, you should pair them with a healthy lifestyle and diet that nourishes brain health.
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- “Protective Role of Ashwagandha Leaf Extract and Its Component Withanone on Scopolamine-Induced Changes in the Brain and Brain-Derived Cells” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3214041/
- “Neuroprotective, Neurotrophic and Anti-oxidative Role of Bacopa monnieri on CUS Induced Model of Depression in Rat” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27506204/
- “Dietary omega-3 fatty acids normalize BDNF levels, reduce oxidative damage, and counteract learning disability after traumatic brain injury in rats” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15672635/
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- “Effect of oral resveratrol on the BDNF gene expression in the hippocampus of the rat brain” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21221775/
- “Curcumin produces neuroprotective effects via activating brain-derived neurotrophic factor/TrkB-dependent MAPK and PI-3K cascades in rodent cortical neurons” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19879308/