Neuroplasticity: What It Is & Why You Want It

December 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm 1 comment

Neuroplasticity: It’s a mouthful of a word, and one that gets tossed around a lot when discussing brain fitness.  But what is it, and why does it matter so much?

The meaning of “Neuro” is pretty easy, it means it has to do with the nervous system – and in this case, specifically the brain.  And  in this case, “plasticity” doesn’t refer to a brain wrapped in Saranwrap, but rather to the properties of plastic – something that is moldable, changeable, flexible.

So neuroplasticity means the brain is not concrete and fixed, but flexible and changing.  And although the idea was suggested over a hundred years ago, it’s only recently that it’s been taken seriously by the scientific community.   Numerous tests and studies have demonstrated that adult brains continue to produce new brain cells and connections throughout life, turning a lot of assumptions about how the brain works upside down.

But what’s really interesting about neuroplasticity is that the brain seems to change itself, specifically in response to what we think, do and experience.  Each new thought we have produces a new neural pathway, and every time we repeat that thought, we strengthen that pathway.  The result? We can physically grow and shape our brains by choosing to actively develop and train it… just like we develop and change our bodies.

Another powerful part of neuroplasticity is that the brain can reorganize itself when damaged, at least to a certain extent.   When parts of the brain are damaged, the brain can sometimes rewire itself so that the functions usually handled by the damaged areas can be moved to other, still healthy and intact areas.

That means that because of your brains special plastic powers, you have a much better chance of recovering from a stroke, brain injury or disease.  Even in cases of severely debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s, neuroplasticity may help minimize symptoms for many years.

So, how do you keep your brain plastic as you age?

  • By keeping the brain active and stimulated – mental exercise encourages the brain to build new neural pathways, and exercising its plasticity.
  • By staying physically active – physical exercise seems to be a key in encouraging the brain to produce new brain cells.
  • By tending to overall brain health – eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep,  staying hydrated, reducing stress and staying socially active all seem to contribute to the brain’s ability to build, protect and restore itself.

There you have it.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and reshape itself in response to new experiences, injury and disease. It can help you stay sharp in old age, recover from brain injury and stroke, even delay symptoms of dementia due to disease.  You can encourage your brain to stay plastic through mental and physical activity, and tending to your over all health and well being.

Who knew that having a plastic brain would be a good thing?

Entry filed under: 7 keys, Be Mentally Active. Tags: , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. GaryD  |  December 13, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Old dogs CAN learn new tricks. That’s a good thing! Thanks for the great post.


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About This Blog

A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness



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