Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, is the ability for our brains to reorganize neural pathways to make room for new experiences in our lives. It forms the basis for our personality, our behaviors, our emotions, our creativity and our whole life in general. As our experiences are taken in our brain is processing it and making new connections that will form continue to be added to our life’s internal journal.
Scientists, philosophers and wise men have been trying to understand what forms human behavior, and they all had theories – but no direct facts to back them up, until now. They have pondered whether nature is more important in forming our character, or is it in our genes and we are products of our parents and their parents before them. What is interesting is that all of the above is true – nature and genetics play key roles on the forming of each of us, and even in sets of twins there will be variations.
A scientific explanation has been ascertained as to how we become the individuals we are, and neuroscience is certain the connections the brain forms – through plasticity, are due to a continuous evolution of cell connections, redirection, and pruning out old connections. This process continues to change our brain structure throughout our lifetime, and as we continue to grow and evolve the connections get stronger.
As we continue to learn new skills and information, through experience or education, there is an ongoing change that takes place in our brains to learn, memorize and file away this information for use at another time. This process utilizes many different types of brain cells, including neurons, glia and vascular cells. Some of these connections are more prominent than others at varying times.
To illustrate what happens within our brains as information is being processed – take a coin and make an impression of the coin in clay. Changes must occur in the clay for the impression to be made. A similar change takes place within our brain during plasticity as the brain reorganizes in response to the stimulation or experience.
Neuroplasticity occurs under two primary conditions:
- When the brain begins to develop from an embryo (Developmental plasticity) , and as immature brain cells begin to process sensory information (learning and memory plasticity) through adulthood.
- To compensate or adapt to a lost function, or to reroute functions in case of a brain injury.
As stated before, evolution plays a part in brain plasticity. We are subject to influences that surround us, through our parents, friends, neighbors, neighborhood and the community in which we live. If we live in a community that is peaceful and quiet chances are our personalities would be more relaxed and trusting; while those growing up in a negatively charged environment would be more cautious and even combative. Our life experiences are all a part of our overall being, and our brain takes this all in and compartmentalizes it for form the person we are.
Plasticity is a continuously evolving process, and our brains are constantly learning and taking in new information. This information is then processed, forming new connections, throughout our lifetime. When parts of our connection process gets weak, or where communication is lost, there is a “synaptic pruning” that takes place to cut out the old and bad parts and to strengthen the other once – much like a gardener does when he prunes his trees to take off the unhealthy branches and all the others to get more strength.Â Experience determines which connections will be strengthened and which will be pruned; active connections will remain while those have no longer receive or give signals die out (through a process called apoptosis).
Our brains never stop working, changing, adapting and reorganizing throughout our lifetime. It is a never ending process, and it forms who we are up until the day we die.
This is Ron White, two-time USA Memory Champion
Brain Connection – The brain plasticity revolution:http://brainconnection.positscience.com/offsite/?offsite_url=http://merzenich.positscience.com/
Washington University – Brain Plasticity, What Is It? http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/plast.html