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Neurotrophins and a healthy brain

The developments in neuroscience are moving fast. More and more we get the impression that the brain is a plastic organ and that movement and relaxation are things to which the brain literally responds well by creating new connections and that more end plates are created as a result of which we function better.

The front parts of the brain continue to grow until around the age of 20 or 25 and recently it has become increasingly clear that there are specific substances that enable brain growth throughout life and that can improve thinking functions. Thus, there is increasing knowledge about substances in the brain that ensure that nerve cells can survive and grow. These specific substances are called neurotrophins. It ensures the new production of brain cells and strengthens the existing nerve connections. It also prevents the death of brain cells. The hippocampus, the part involved in the memory process, is an important place for the effects of neurotrophins. Especially the production of new endplates (the synapses) of the nerve cells in the hippocampus is stimulated. In addition to the literal effects on the brain, modern research shows that, for example, regular running has a favourable effect on depression, which is associated with an increase in neurotrophins. Antidepressants also increase the level of neurotrophins. Further research has been initiated into the role of increased neurotrophins in slowing and halting numerous neurodegenerative diseases. To keep and make your brain healthy, it is very important to stimulate the production of neurotrophins in the brain. Neurotrophins can be increased in the brain by adapting or changing one's lifestyle. A big step forward can be made by:

  • Less stress: learn about stress management, gain insight into what causes stress in your life and avoid anything related to perfectionism. A life should come from passion - may and not from worrying - must.
  • Sufficient sleep is a strong neurotrophin booster. Too many people wake up 'broke' and do not have good quality sleep. If you sleep badly, start with a moment of rest in the afternoon to prevent overstimulation in the evening. Too many stimuli during the day have an extremely negative influence on your sleep quality and the production of neurotrophins. Because of this you literally break down the repair capacity of your brain.
  • Use your brain: learn a lot, start many new activities, reduce reproduction and tap into your creative power. Far too many people have collapsed into routines that do not sufficiently stimulate their brains and therefore miss the extra production of neurotrophins.
  • The extra mile, of course, is to literally get moving. Walk regularly, go running - swimming, kick a ball three times a week, pick up the weights at the gym. Recent research shows that all forms of sport strongly increase the levels of neurotrophins. Strength training, interval training and endurance training all increase the level of neurotrophins in the brain.
  • It is remarkable that positive social contacts increase neurotrophins. So seek out family and friends with great regularity and 'chill out'.
  • Another remarkable fact is that you should not eat too much to stimulate neurotrophins in the brain.
  • Good news is that coffee, green tea, chocolate, blueberries, oily fish and olive oil stimulate neurotrophins. The bad news is that sugar and alcohol lower neurotrophin levels.
  • Think about your gut too! A good intestinal flora stimulates the production of neurotrophins and consider using probiotics.
  • Don't be overweight. Excess weight affects neurotrophin production and losing weight increases these levels.

Author: Dr. Erik Matser neuropsychologist, university lecturer, scientific publicist and sport psychologist.