It is nice to know that you brain can grow — and it is still met with surprise when I explain how this can happen to audiences when speaking in public. But this recent research gives some fascinating insights into a new mechanism of growth in the brain.
Researchers around Terry Dean of the Children’s National Hospital in the USA have found a mechanism that is controlled by daily rhythms and this could lead to new insight and more effective methods to help recovery after brain injury.
Your brain cells, neurons are pretty fixed with new generation of cells only in very limited areas in the brain. However, they can rebuild and strengthen connections. There are also group of cells called micro glia or glial cells and these are considered the brains “helping” cells — they are also essential to healthy brain functioning performing many critical functions.
One of these goes under the technical name of NG2-glia, or “oligodendrocyte precursor”, sorry I know that won’t help you (in short, it’s one of those “helping” cells). And, it gets interesting because these are one of the few cells in the brain that can continuously regenerate.
What the researchers found is that these follow daily rhythms with proliferation of these cells coinciding with the highest levels of a factor known as Bmal-1RNA. This is a protein that helps the body clock stay in rhythm and is highest when we should be most active — during the day.
What is interesting is that this can help us guide recovery better by taking into account times of day during treatment — we also know that traumatic brain injury (TBI) can disrupt daily rhythms which could explain some of the negative effects.
Also, of interest is that we would probably assume that much healing would take place as night — but this shows not so in this particular case, and important to note.
This highlights once more the importance of daily rhythms in just about everything!