What is neuroplasticity?
The biological definition of Plasticity refers to the adaptability of an organism to changes in its environment or differences between its various habitats. This is the same for the structure of the brain and the neurons that fire within which we refer to as neuroplasticity. In the past scientist used to believe that we were born with a few billion neurons and if they were damaged they would be gone and we could not restore them. Today we know that this is untrue and our brain is extremely pliable and can adapt by forming new connections, regenerating neurons, and changing the physical shape of the brain.
What would cause the brain to change shape or create new paths?
The brain adapts and changes based on internal and external stimuli, both conscious and unconscious, and can change multiple times throughout one's life. The brain can even change its physical structure to react to inputs from events, experiences, thoughts, and even human emotions. For example, it's possible a trigger or traumatic event comes along that trains your brain to feel a certain way or body to react to a specific stimuli. However, with the proper psychological therapy and/or physical therapy the brain can learn to be in a even better state than the pre-trauma brain was. This is because the brain will respond and reorganize data as it is implemented regardless of whether that is something that is of benefit or detriment to you. Understanding how the brain incorporates change is how we can create better habits in our lives.
What is neurogenesis?
Neurogenesis is the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain. This can occur even during old age or post-trauma, which means the brain can even recover from damage. If neurogenesis regenerates neurons, neuroplasticity rearranges and remaps them.
The 2 types of neuroplasticity
1. Functional Plasticity
The brain's ability to move functions from a damaged area of the brain to other undamaged areas.
2. Structural Plasticity
The brain's ability to actually change its physical structure as a result of learning. The brain is an extremely adaptable and resilient organ that can change its physical structure due to trauma or any unconscious internal and external stimuli. This means even if it changes for the worse it is possible to make it better than ever as it will continue to morph throughout one's lifespan.
Traffic and road analogy of how neurplasticity Works
You can think of the brain as a huge city with thousands of roads with lots of traffic. Some roads move faster than others and move quickly and easily. These roads with our established traffic represent our ways of feeling, thinking or doing. Every time we think, feel or act in the same way we strengthen this road making it faster and easier for our brains to travel this pathway.
By contrast if a road wasn't built well in the first place or we feel, think or act differently we might use a different part of the brain. If we keep using this new road our brain uses this road more and more and the new way of thinking, feeling or doing becomes automatic. In the meantime the old route gets less use overtime and weakens. In other parts it may be possible to rebuild a blocked pathway. The process of rewiring your brain brain while making new and more efficient paths while weakening old ones is neuroplasticity.
The brain forms these fortified neural patterns and they become the path of least resistance to generate a positive feeling not knowing it could be potentially harmful or beneficial to you.
Why neuroplasticity is beneficial to your health
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to constantly evolve and heal. This means recovering from physical trauma or possibly a brain disease will allow it to heal over time.
Issues like concussions are one of the biggest causes of brain injuries. It is important not only to work to prevent these injuries with the proper care but also make sure you take the proper steps to recover. Take proper care of the brain and it will take good care of you.
Neuroplasticity also explains why bad habits are formed and difficult to break. Understanding this also allows us to identify how to create positive patterns in our daily lives as well. Check out other blogs covering these topics below: