Brain Training is The Bomb

nuclear explosionIt turns out that those mushroom clouds from atomic bomb tests in the 1950s and 60s brought a boon to researchers of brain development. Using carbon dating, researchers from the lauded Karolinska Institute in Sweden have determined that a staggering 1/3 or more of brain cells in the brain’s hippocampus are renewed during our lifetime.  This refutes the often-heard criticism of brain training that our brain power is essentially fixed.  The hippocampus houses all of the critical brain functions that govern memory, comprehension, and decision-making.

“We provide the first evidence that there is substantial neurogenesis in the human hippocampus throughout life, suggesting that the new neurons may contribute to human brain function,” said senior study author Jonas Frisén of the Karolinska Institute.

The relatively brief period during which above-ground nuclear tests were permitted gave the researchers the opportunity to trace the path of the Carbon-14 isotope (a by-product of nuclear testing) through the cells of people who lived during that era.  The findings showed that about 1,400 new neurons are being made each day, and the rate of neurogenesis doesn’t decrease with age.

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