When we hear the word “Brain”, the first thing that pops up in our mind is a complex networking arrangement that works critically all the time, interpreting information and making decisions, which is a tedious and intractable job.
Yes, dealing with the studies about brain functions and its complexities is extremely difficult but it is absolutely worthwhile, besides its natural for us to be curious about what makes us “us”. And this curiosity gave birth to the field of Neuroscience or Neurobiology- this field of study is multidisciplinary and has attracted researchers for ages.
There are plenty of articles available on such studies. Researches on Neuroscience or Neurobiology are enlightening us every day. There are numerous books full of information about such complicated studies done by Cognitive Psychologists available.
The smallest unit of our brain is a neuron (supported by glial cells as insulators). Neurons are further responsible for making neural connections and networks between themselves to function as a whole.
Everything that a human does in his day-to-day life- be it any cognitive analysis or performing a learned skill or just a daily activity, our brain has a network for it. The networks are created based on our experiences, practices, something that we have acquired over time, or due to something that’s been taught to us. These networks- believed to be hardwired and not subject to change. However, when the brain is fed with new information or learning, a new network for the same is eventually created to help the brain perform a new task.
Now, what about a habit or a practice you wish to change? What about a piece of work you want to do differently but struggling with the same? In a nutshell, what if you wish to rewire an existing network in your brain?
“Neuroplasticity” – a very interesting study of neural circuits; has been a favourite topic for researchers for centuries. There were certain concepts believed about the brain to be true until studies in the early 1900s gave contrasting results.
According to researchers, a simple way to define Neuroplasticity is – “the ability to make adaptive changes related to the structure and function of the nervous system.” This means that our brain is capable of making changes to the networks already created- they are hardwired but have the flexibility to rewire itself subject to conscious efforts toward it.
Hence, Neuroplasticity is the capacity of the brain through which creation, weakening, or strengthening of networks is possible. Our nervous system has certain structures and functions related to it as mentioned earlier. Neuroplasticity hence applies to both the structure and function of the nervous system; respectively called Structural Neuroplasticity and Functional Neuroplasticity.
The network in the brain that we are talking about are nothing but neural connections. So, Structural Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to make changes to the structure of a neural connection (a network for a particular task) through learning.
On the other hand, Functional Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to shift functional information (to be more precise- the functions of a neural network connection) from a damaged area of the brain to a fit area. The reason behind damage in the neural network connections is usually medical or pathological.
Now the next question that arises, is, how do we make it happen? What are those conscious efforts we are talking about? There are numerous brain exercises applied and practiced by Cognitive Psychologists to see the desired results in a brain. As various diseases, traumas and medical conditions are responsible for the brain to lose its capacities and capabilities; malfunction of the cardiovascular system and stroke contributing the most to it.
The concept of Neuroplasticity can support these conditions with positive results. Also, students, athletes, and various professionals may make very good use of Neuroplasticity as it would contribute to the enhancement of their performance.
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