Neuroplasticity- Your brains way of healing, dveloping and evolving
What is Neuroplasticity? Neuroplasticity is your brains way of healing, developine and evolving
What you do and how you live matters. Your brain activity is at risk! Neuroplasticity describes brain changes that occur in response to your everyday activities and experiences. In essence you can think of this as brain changes that help you adapt, develop and react more effectively to everyday challenges or routines.
Neuroplasticity occurs at the biochemical level, receptor level and synaptic level. The synapse is the space between two neurons that allows the passage of neurochemicals and electrical impulses so that one nerve can influence another and create a circuit or network of nerves. Over time, neuroplasticity can lead to an increase (or decrease) in the size of these nerve connections effectively changing the size of brain tissue.
Neuroplasticity can be positive or negative as the following examples describe:
- Positive – Increase in brain nerve cell growth factors, synaptic connections and brain cell volume in the region of the hippocampus and motor cortex (brain areas responsible for learning and motor control, respectively) in response to repetitive and challenging exercise. These changes lead to better motor performance.
- Negative- Increase in brain nerve cell growth factors, synaptic connections and brain cell volume in the region of the amygdala (brain region associated active with distressful experiences) in response to repeated traumatic events such as physical and emotional abuse. These changes can lead to depression or even PTSD.
Why does neuroplasticity matter?
Positive neuroplasticity can improve motor performance, stamina, emotional health, cognitive performance and even self-confidence.
How can I promote my Neuroplastic potential?
First and foremost stay active, stay positive, stay challenged and stay social. Although there are many ways that we can tap into our brain's neuroplasticity, there are common themes to activities that improve brain function. Here are just a few:
- New and innovative tasks, thoughts or activities that require us to learn new skills or ideas
- Complex tasks that require attention and practice
- Intense actions that require more energy, work or practice
- Activities that enhance positive feelings or attitude, sense of possibility and control
- Activities that have powerful or personal meaning and significance
- Repetition of tasks with the goal of improving performance with each repetition - in a sense 'practice does make perfect'
What else can I do?
The next time you pursue an activity do it with intention. For instance, when walking on the treadmill, pay attention to your thoughts. Keep them positive. Pay attention to your form. Don’t sacrifice good form for longer duration.
These ideas apply to many of our actions and thoughts, whether exercise, creative or adventurous ventures, the results of medication, quality of our thoughts, or socializing. Try something a little different today, take a class, learn a new skill, reach out to others, cultivate your gratitude and tap into your brain's neuroplasticity.
Much of the original research on neuroplasticity changed the way we rehabilitate people with stroke. Find out more about stroke at The American Stroke Foundation and The National Stroke Society and what you can do to reduce your stroke risk or stroke impact.