brain-1Just like any muscle in your body, if not used, the brain starts to degrade as time passes; this has been known for quite a while, but recently, a team from UC Irvine provided the first visual evidence of how learning protects the brain, thus proving that mental stimulation fights against the degrading effects that aging has on your brain.

The team of neuroscientists led by Lulu Chen and Christine Gall developed a novel visualization technique and found that everyday forms of learning stimulate the neuron receptors that keep the brain cells going at top gear. The receptors are activated by a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which facilitates the growth and differentiation of the connections, or synapses, responsible for communication among neurons.

“The findings confirm a critical relationship between learning and brain growth and point to ways we can amplify that relationship through possible future treatments,” says Chen, a graduate researcher in anatomy & neurobiology.

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