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Here is the first post by a guest author which will be a series on Brain Plasticity

This author, Anna Kucirkova, found my earlier article on adjusting to life as we mature and my reference to neuroplasticity there.  Here are the first two parts of her article on

Brain plasticity, also known as neuroplasticity, is a term used by neuroscientists that refers to the brain’s ability to change and grow at any age. This flexibility is critically important during our brain development and in shaping personalities.

Prior to the 1960s, scientists believed that changes in the brain only took place during infancy and childhood. Most believed that the brain’s physical structure was permanent by adulthood. Modern research has concluded that the brain creates new neural pathways and alters existing ones to adapt to new experiences, create new memories, and learn new information, right up until the day we die.

Psychologist William James was the first to suggest (in 1890) that the brain was not as unchanging as formerly believed. In his book The Principles of Psychology, he wrote, “Organic matter, especially nervous tissue, seems endowed with a very extraordinary degree of plasticity.” However, his idea was ignored for decades.

From the 1920s to the 1960s, researchers began to explore the creation of new neural pathways and followed cases where older adults suffering the aftermath of massive strokes were able to “regain functioning, demonstrating that the brain was much more malleable than previously believed.” Modern researchers have confirmed that the brain is able to rewire itself following damage.

Characteristics of Plasticity

brain plasticity

There are a few defining characteristics of neuroplasticity:

It varies by age. Though plasticity is present for a lifetime, certain changes are more likely during specific ages.

Plasticity involves multiple neural processes. Plasticity never stops and always involves brain cells besides neurons, like glial and vascular cells.

Plasticity happens for two different reasons.

  1.    As a result of learning, experience, and memory formation
  2.    As a result of damage to the brain.

The brain never stops changing in response to learning. In cases of damage to the brain, the areas of the brain associated with certain functions may be damaged; but, healthy parts of the brain may take over those functions and the abilities can be restored.

Environment and genetics both have an influence on plasticity. The stimulation and sensory input of the environment will have a direct effect on how the brain grows and changes. Similarly, if you have a genetic predisposition toward learning, you are more likely to take in and retain information and skills more quickly.

There are two types of neuroplasticity:

  • Functional plasticity: The brain’s ability to move functions from a damaged area of the brain to other undamaged areas.
  • Structural plasticity: The brain’s ability to actually change its physical structure as a result of learning.

Both types of plasticity can be harnessed to improve our brains.

This definitely blows a hole in the idea that we lose brain power over time and through injury and illness and that we can’t recover it in any way.  I soon will be publishing a new post titled, “Aging Backwards Rather Than Aging Forwards” which surprisingly I had in mind when I received the E-mail from Anna.

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