What makes one individual different from another? Why do different people within the same family have a wide array of personalities? What causes some men/women to become successful while others, who may have the same brain capacity or potential, fall short? This is a question scientists have been wondering for centuries.

For the first time in our history, there is scientific evidence has been found that would explain these questions. Our ‘Personhood’ is created by brain plasticity in each of our lifetimes. It comes from an evolutionary process that continues to evolve throughout our lifetime, and is passed down through the generations.

This process is known as brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity. To neuroscientists, it is the ability of our brain to reorganize our neural pathways to accommodate each new experience we live through. We are continuously learning and evolving as we grow, and that doesn’t stop until the day we die. We learn new skills, process new information, experience new adventures, and our brains are always undergoing changes as we go about our normal business.

As an illustration as to what changes occur within our brains as new information is being processed, take a coin and a piece of clay and make an impression. Changes take place in the clay as the coin is pressed into it, redistributing the clay around the coin. A similar change takes place within our brain during plasticity as the brain reorganizes in response to the stimulation or experience.

There are different types of brain cells involved in neuroplasticity – neurons, glia and vascular cells, and each is dominate at different times in our life while the others are running in the background.

There are two conditions in which neuroplasticity can occur:

1.   When the brain first begins to develop, and immature brain cells begin to process sensory information on through adulthood. (Developmental plasticity, and plasticity of learning and memory).

2.   In order to compensate or adapt to a lost function, or to reroute functions in case of a brain injury.

We are shaped by the characteristics of the people around us and the environment we live in just as much as by what we experience first-hand. Environmental issues play a big role in plasticity.

Throughout our lifetime the plasticity take in the information, using old connections and making new ones. It also undergoes a “pruning,” where information that is not necessary to retain, or where the connections are faulty, will be rerouted or eliminated. This process is called “synaptic pruning.” This eliminates the weaker connections and strengthens the newer and stronger ones. 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). This is much like a gardener pruning his trees and bushes to strengthen the larger and stronger branches.

Through brain plasticity we have learned the brain never stops working and changing. Everything we experience influences or changes our behaviors, thoughts, memories and feelings. We are who we are due to the evolution of our brain cells through plasticity.




About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert.




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