The Cambridge fellow on what it means to be human, the neurological benefits of running, artificial intelligence and why a simulated version of her might miss gnocchi

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.’”

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