New neurons are produced each day in the hippocampus through the process of neurogenesis. Both mental and physical training can modify this process by increasing the number of new cells that mature into functional neurons in the adult brain. However, the mechanisms whereby these increases occur are not necessarily the same. Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise greatly increases the number of new neurons that are produced in the hippocampal formation. In contrast, mental training via skill learning increases the numbers that survive, particularly when the training goals are challenging. Both manipulations can increase cognitive performance in the future, some of which are reportedly mediated by the presence of new neurons in the adult hippocampus. Based on these data, we suggest that a combination of mental and physical training, referred to here as MAP training, is more beneficial for neuronal recruitment and overall mental health than either activity alone. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Cognitive Enhancers'.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cognitive enhancement
- Fluid intelligence
- Mental training
- Physical training