On any given day in Cambridge, you may see numerous people jogging along the towpaths, and it’s not unreasonable to assume neuroscientists may be over-represented. “You see so many,” says Hannah Critchlow, a neuroscientist who likes to jog along the river.

Physical fitness may be a secondary consideration, she says; what they are really trying to do is ramp up their neurogenesis – the birth of new nerve cells in the brain. “People used to think that once you were born, that was it, that was all the nerve cells you have throughout life,” she says.

“Then, 20 years ago, Rusty Gage [a professor at the Salk Institute in California] discovered that you get neurogenesis in adults, in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory. It turns out that jogging is really good at increasing neurogenesis in the brain.” And so, Critchlow says with a laugh, she likes to run.

“I go: ‘This is wonderful, my neurogenesis is really happy with me at the moment.’” We are sitting in her study at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where Critchlow is outreach fellow, tasked with public engagement. Once described by the Telegraph as “a sort of female Brian Cox”, she has given numerous talks, been a presenter on Tomorrow’s World Live, the interactive version of the BBC science show, appeared on TV, radio and podcasts and was named as a top 100 scientist for her work in science communication.

She has just written a book on consciousness – part of the Ladybird Expert series aimed at adults, a brief but mindbending introduction to the brain and the idea of consciousness, taking in philosophy, famous neuroscience breakthroughs and brain facts. “Our brain contains around 86bn nerve cells,” she writes. Read more from theguardian.com…

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