UniToNews has decided to take part in Quiz Scienza (Science quiz), a scientific dissemination project by Renato Sartini, a science journalist, which aims to create a virtual contact between the people of the web and the scientific world, in order to simplify scientific concepts and debunk the so-called scientific hoaxes.

It is published on Twitter and Facebook in collaboration with organizations and institutions dealing with scientific research. Luca Bonfanti, professor of veterinary anatomy and neurobiology at the Neuroscience Institute Cavalieri Ottolenghi (NICO) and at the University of Turin answered to question 7 of Quiz Scienza.

The 100 billion neurons that are in the brain the day of our birth have to follow us until the death. This is quite different from the situation in other organs such as skin, blood, bone, in which cells change again and again because they alter or die. […] The problem is that the lack of cell turnover in the brain also prevents regeneration after injury (trauma, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases). This failure is even more serious if we think that man’s life expectancy gets longer and longer. Our ancestors, thousands of years ago, lived on average 25 years, and before the industrial revolution people usually didn’t live 60-70 years. Nowadays, in some countries, we are moving towards medium longevity exceeding 100 years, with an obvious risk of increase in senile dementia.

[…] However, there is the opportunity to take advantage of the plasticity of neurogenesis to keep our brain ‘trained’ throughout our lives, so that it remains healthy and functional even in old age, which it’s a form of prevention against the cognitive deficits . It has been shown that repeated physical activity, especially the running (in addition to intellectual activity), increase the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, proving that the lifestyle we lead and the environment in which we live can change (for better or for worse) the “structure” of the brain, at all ages.