As the years pass, you might be growing more and more concerned about declining brain function.
And with the dramatic rise of Alzheimer’s rates, it’s no wonder…
According to the Alzheimer’s Association “Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's every 66 seconds.” And by a 2021 estimation, approximately 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Though there are new treatments being researched for Alzheimer’s, we’re still waiting for “the cure.”
The good news is, over the past few years, researchers have demonstrated the effectiveness of many drug-free methods in protecting brain health and slowing cognitive decline.
Of course, it’s no surprise that exercise and proper nutrition play a vital role.
But one lesser known strategy that’s quickly gaining traction is to use the power of sound to stimulate the vagus nerve.
I’ve discussed the brain health benefits of stimulating the vagus nerve in previous articles. Particularly how our brain releases a flood of nitric oxide (NO), which seems to act as a “guardian” for your mind, helping to protect and preserve its function.
But stimulating this nerve also contains many other protective benefits beyond NO production.
Today I want to tell you about neurogenesis.
The brain protecting powers of this all-important nerve
Here’s how it works…
Neurodegeneration is the progressive functional and structural loss of your neurons (brain cells), and is a major factor in the development of dementia and other cognitive disorders.
Fortunately, Mother Nature has provided us with a built-in defense system to fight back.
And that’s neurogenesis (the opposite of neurodegeneration). This process occurs when new neurons are formed in the brain.
The latest research has linked the stimulation of the vagus nerve to improved neurogenesis.
Studies suggest that not only is adult neurogenesis possible, but that healthy older men and women can generate just as many new brain cells as younger people.
This serves as a significant development in modern medicine, because for decades doctors believed we were born with a predetermined amount of brain cells.
Additionally, studies in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine have shown that vagal nerve stimulation increases neurogenesis in a part of the brain called the hippocampus—which plays a critical role in learning and memory.
What’s more, vagal nerve stimulation is also said to encourage your production of a vital brain protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).
BDNF promotes the growth, maintenance, and survival of your brain cells. It helps repair brain tissue and regeneration throughout the whole body.
BDNF is also active at the connections between nerve cells (called synapses), where your cell-to-cell brain communication occurs. Maintaining these cellular connections is essential for learning and memory.
Easy-to-do tips for better brain function
Clearly, stimulating neurogenesis and the production of your BDNF protein are crucial for protecting your brain from cognitive decline.
One way to do this is by integrating a short regimen of vagus nerve stimulation into your daily routine.
Ready to get started?
Here are a few more ways:
Whether you choose to hum or sing, these vocalizations will stimulate your vagus nerve with vibration by using your body’s own sound.
You can feel it happening by placing your fingers gently on your throat while you vocalize.
Start by practicing 5 minutes per day and gradually work your way up to longer periods as you like. You’ll be stimulating neurogenesis and relaxing at the same time. A win-win!
Be well, Jim Donovan M.Ed.
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Rosso P, Iannitelli A, Pacitti F, Quartini A, Fico E, Fiore M, Greco A, Ralli M, Tirassa P. Vagus nerve stimulation and Neurotrophins: a biological psychiatric perspective. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2020
Ogbonnaya S, Kaliaperumal C. Vagal nerve stimulator: Evolving trends. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2013;4(1):8-13. doi:10.4103/0976-9668.107254