In recent decades, neuroscience — the study of the brain — discovered an amazing ability of the human brain: the ability to change its structure and to reorganize itself. This was a revolutionary understanding in conflict with the conventional view: when the brain loses its functions — it is permanent. At that time our understanding was that the brain works like a computer, in a fixed, unchangeable way!
Now we know; the brain has the potential to change itself in many ways. Not only that, scientists learned that we can improve the functioning of the brain through neuroplasticity.
Neuroscience defines neuroplasticity as the brain’s ability to rewire, adapt and create new neural circuits, new connections in the brain, and to compensate for the effects of injury or disease. In “translation,” it is the brain’s ability to change and reshape itself by constant learning through new experiences, modifying itself throughout the adult years. The term neuroplasticity became more common in everyday life, after our learning that the brain is not hard-wired, performing in a fixed way.
Whenever we learn something new, the human brain makes new synapses (the junction between the neurons), which is actually the process of neuroplasticity. In other words, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change synaptic wiring. Without plasticity we would be victims of genetic predisposition, meaning each generation would be the same. No difference would exist between us and our ancestors. As we know, this is not the true. Neuroplasticity has the power to overcome the genetic program of our ancestors.
Because of brain plasticity, if some brain regions are damaged by stroke, illness or accident, the brain can form new compensatory connections, restoring, adapting or repairing itself to the new environment, after the damage is done. Science was “stunned” to learn about the brain’s ability to generate new neurons (nerve cells), something which was totally impossible to accept just decades ago!
If you want to see neuroplasticity at work, think about stroke victims. In many cases they can regain some lost functions, through the process of learning and exercising. Because of brain plasticity, damage in one brain hemisphere could be compensated for by another brain hemisphere.
· Because of the brain’s ability to learn new skills, we can improve our brain’s efficiency into old age.
· The brain can rewire itself. Therefore we can learn new tasks and improve our problem-solving capability.
· The brain can generate new neurons in the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for long-term memory.
· Learning at any age also benefits from brain plasticity’s powers.
· You can improve the functioning of your brain, which happens through neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is one of the best things about the human brain.