While it may seem like many people are set in their ways, their brains certainly aren’t. By performing specific tasks, we have the power to change the way in which our minds work, even into our golden years. One way to induce neuroplasticity is by learning something new, so we’re sharing the basics of this exciting neurological process.
What Is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to reorganize itself, which can be adaptive (positive) or maladaptive (negative). For example, neuroplasticity can help people who have brain trauma relearn skills. On the other hand, people who have hearing loss may experience neuroplasticity that leads to tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, because their brain is creating maladaptive connections in the hopes of gaining additional auditory input. It all simply depends on what type of stimulation is causing the neuroplasticity.
Using Neuroplasticity to Overcome Physical Trauma
When someone experiences a stroke or other brain injury, certain neuronal connections in the brain can no longer function. People who have had neural trauma might not remember how to do tasks they once did with ease, such as speaking. However, neuroplasticity can allow remaining neurons to form new connections with one another and make these actions possible once again. Researchers suggest that learning or relearning how to do a task through frequent repetition can help these new neural connections form.
Rewiring the Brain to Overcome Psychiatric Disorders
From depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), psychiatric disorders can result from abnormal brain structure, chemistry, and function. These causes can be the result of maladaptive neuroplasticity, so researchers are looking to reverse the effects of this while encouraging adaptive neuroplasticity, both of which can reduce the severity of symptoms. Stimulating this positive plasticity can be a lot of fun and might involve activities such as traveling to new and interesting places, learning a new skill (like speaking a language or playing an instrument), making art, and even reading fiction.
Deep brain stimulation can also encourage neuroplasticity. “The more we understand this circuitry [in the brain], the more we can fine tune how to harness that capability [to elevate mood] within an individual and the better we’ll be able to treat patients with mood disorders,” said Dr. Sameer Sheth, associate professor of neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine and neurosurgeon at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.
Our team has extensive experience treating the full spectrum of neurological disorders. Schedule an appointment with a St. Luke’s Health neurologist to begin your healthcare journey with Houston’s leaders in neuroscience.
MedicineNet | Medical Definition of Neuroplasticity
Hindawi | Adult Neuroplasticity: More Than 40 Years of Research
Positive Psychology | What is Neuroplasticity? A Psychologist Explains [+14 Exercises]
NIH | Post-Stroke Rehabilitation Fact Sheet
NCBI | Information about Mental Illness and the Brain
NCBI | Neural plasticity: consequences of stress and actions of antidepressant treatment
Discover | In a New Experiment, Scientists Used Jolts of Electricity to Spark Actual Joy
NCBI | Neural plasticity in tinnitus.