Brain Plasticity And Your Mental Health

The brain can be a very resilient and flexible organ even if its complexity is probably of the highest of the human body. Your brain has the ability to alter its structure and functions through time naturally and in response to external stimuli. This is called brain plasticity which we will talk about further. Brain plasticity has in some sorts revolutionized the way scientists approach our brains. Decades ago, we believe that our brain capacities were fixed and could only decline with age. Today we understand that through brain training we can help to keep our brain and memory healthy for the long-run.

Brain plasticity can involve fundamental changes to the brain such as the creation of new neural pathways or disconnection of old neural pathways. The creation of new neural pathways is an important part of learning. This phenomenon happens usually when your mind is stimulated with new information and data. By participating in challenging and different activities, you can make sure your brain networks are fully working and developing themselves.

When a person is very young, they do not have nearly as many neural pathways as they do when they grow older. As the child is exposed to new things through external stimuli, the neural pathways can get created. As this is reinforced more pathways become created. This helps to cement the information in the child’s brain and he/she learns something new.

So in simple terms if a child touches something hot, he/she learns very quickly that this is something which should be done or an unpleasant situation can result. The child remembers that the object should not be touched.

Brain plasticity can also involved the ability of the certain sections of the brain to take over functions which were previously not performed by that area.

It should be noted that there are three main forms of brain plasticity. They are as follows:

1. Synaptic plasticity – As described earlier, this has to do with the ability of the brain to create new neural pathways when new information or stimuli is introduced. If it is repeated enough, the brain responds by creating these new neural pathways. This helps to reinforce the ability the store new knowledge and enhance learning.

2. Neurogenesis – It was widely believed for many years that the numbers of brain cells we have are fixed and that they do not multiply. This has been a primary reason given why brain function declines with age.

However in recent years it has been shown that it is entirely possible for new brain cells to be created from the stem cells. This can lead to a fully functioning brain cell.

More research is necessary to help to fully understand this situation and take advantage of it.

3. Functional compensator plasticity – This involves the ability of the brain to retrain different areas of the brain to take over functions which are not normally performed by that area. So if a part of the brain becomes damaged from injury or diseases, brain plasticity can help the patient to learn to use other areas of the brain to do the same thing. It is an amazing process.
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