Neuroplasticity and Your Brain?
So, what is neuroplasticity? In short, when you change your thinking and experience new things, this can change the structure and function of your brain; this is a simple explanation of neuroplasticity.
You’ve heard the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. It’s been used for years to illustrate that human beings become set in their ways and are difficult or impossible to change.
Well, today, that statement no longer holds water. Today you can teach old brains new tricks. Your brain is far more flexible than you could ever imagine. It constantly reorganises itself, moving cognitive abilities from one lobe to another, just like a computer hard-disk being defragmented and reorganised to create more efficient operation.
The brain in stroke victims has been known to allocate functions to undamaged parts of the brain. Your brain’s ability to carry out these kinds of allocations and changes open up a whole new world for those who are serious about therapeutic and cognitive change.
London Taxi Drivers and Neuroplasticity
The hippocampus (the part of the brain that holds spatial representation) of the London taxi driver is larger than that of the London bus driver. The Bus driver doesn’t need to exercise that part of his brain, as he drives the same route every day. The London taxi driver relies on it constantly to navigate the city.
The Moken or Sea Gypsies are a People off the coast of Thailand. They spend a great deal of time diving to great depths in search of shellfish. This they do without scuba gear. The result of this is their vision is twice as good as the Europeans. They do this by restricting their pupils by 22 per cent. Neuroscientists say that anyone can learn to do this; it isn’t genetics. You see, the brain will command the body to adapt to any situation should the need arise.
If you were to restrict a particular sense, your body would make a similar adaption. Your amazing brain will rewire itself to open new neural pathways to heighten the power of your other senses and so prevent you from drowning, falling or losing your way.
So you see, you can teach your old brain new tricks, just like physical exercise benefits your body, so mindfulness and brain exercise trains your brain.
What is Neuroplasticity Really?
The commonly held belief was that the brain was a physiologically static network of neurons, and once programmed, it was tough to change or reprogram after childhood.
Today this belief has been rapidly replaced with an understanding that the brain is ‘plastic’ and ‘malleable’. Neuroplasticity (also known as cortical re-mapping) refers to the human brain’s ability to change due to one’s experience.
This is good news for us as human beings because it means we can change and replace ideas, thoughts and beliefs that no longer serve us, meaning we can change how we interpret the world around us.
No longer are we stuck in a place we don’t want to be or live a life far below our potential. Through our experiences, we can create new connections within the brain that help us achieve our goals, defeat disease, break bad habits, and live a fuller, healthier life.
One of the main principles of how neuroplasticity works are based upon the fact that the connections within the brain are constantly being removed and recreated. This idea has been encapsulated in the aphorism “neurons that fire together, wire together” and “neurons that fire apart, wire apart.”
Today the role of neuroplasticity is widely recognized in learning, recovery from brain damage, memory, fitness and exercise and the treatment of learning difficulties.
Many years of research have found that substantial changes occur in the lowest neocortical processing areas. These changes can greatly alter the pattern of neural activation in response to experience. Experience can and does actually change the brain’s physical structure (anatomy) and functional organization (physiology) from top to bottom.
Resource: Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity#Fitness_and_exercise