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Your brain's wrinkled surface is a specialized outer layer of the cerebrum called the cortex. Scientists have "mapped" the cortex by identifying areas strongly linked to certain functions.

Your brain is divided into right and left halves. Experts are not certain how the "left brain" and "right brain" may differ in function.

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In most people, the language area is chiefly on the left. Branches connect the nerve cells at more than trillion points. Scientists call this dense, branching network a "neuron forest.

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Signals traveling through the neuron forest form the basis of memories, thoughts, and feelings. The real work of your brain goes on in individual cells. The neurotransmitters travel across the synapse, carrying signals to other cells. Scientists have identified dozens of neurotransmitters. Alzheimer's disease disrupts both the way electrical charges travel within cells and the activity of neurotransmitters.

Signals that form memories and thoughts move through an individual nerve cell as a tiny electrical charge. When a charge reaches a synapse, it may trigger release of tiny bursts of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Dozens of neurotransmitters. This "strength in numbers" provides your brain's raw material.

Over time, our experiences create patterns in signal type and strength. These patterns of activity explain how, at the cellular level, our brains code our thoughts, memories, skills and sense of who we are.

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The brain has three main parts: The cerebrum fills up most of your skull. With that being said, the rate of decline wasn't seen to be consistent and could vary significantly from subject to subject.

The above research is considered important as is suggests that there are factors that can stimulate and inhibit the process of adult neurogenesis. It even hints at possible models for treating degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and even reversing damage caused by traumatic brain injury. Among the factors that can potentially "amp up" this process, exercise has been considered an important one. Early animal research conducted by scientists at the University of Chicago found that aerobic exercise led to both an increase in cell production in the hippocampus and increases in the amount of genetic information being encoded.

What this tells us is that not only does the function of the brain improve, the cells themselves are better able to store information for learning and memory. Research from the University of Pennsylvania in reported that aerobic exercise among older adults increased the actual size of the hippocampus by two percent and effectively reversed the aging-related cell loss by one to two years. In addition to exercise, scientists have found that enriched learning environments can also contribute to the survival of old cells and production of new ones.

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In short, it is suggested that the more you exercise your brain, the more you will be able to maintain optimal brain function. On the flip side, there are factors that directly undermine neurogenesis. Chief among these is age. We know, for example, that by the time many adults reach their 80s, as much as 20 percent of the neural connections in the hippocampus will be lost. Recently, a new study performed at the University of California at San Francisco failed to demonstrate the development of new neurons in the hippocampus of almost 30 adult patients, fueling the controversy of whether neurogenesis in adults does indeed occur.

Future research with a large number of patients and the development of techniques that allow for imaging of new neurons in the living brain will be necessary to definitively confirm or refute the theory of neurogenesis in adults. This ongoing controversy should not discourage you from exercising physically and mentally—even if it does not help neurogenesis, its effects on your overall health are incontestable.

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Human brain

Sign up to get these answers, and more, delivered straight to your inbox. Erickson, A. Ernst, A. Human hippocampal neurogenesis drops sharply in children to undetectable levels in adults. Vol , DOI: