Using Brain Plasticity to Supercharge Your Brain

rubrika: Populárně naučný koutek

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.


Anna Kucirkova

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



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.


Ways to Harness Plasticity



With the right circumstances, the power of brain plasticity can help adult minds grow. Although certain brain functions decay with age, people can tap into plasticity and refresh the brain.


Targeted brain plasticity exercises help to keep our brains fit. Even those suffering from brain damage may be able to retrain their brains for better function. The key is identifying what brain functions to target and how to best exercise them.


Researchers suggest that there are various methods of harnessing brain plasticity:


Intermittent Fasting


The Society for Neuroscience suggests that fasting increases synaptic plasticity, decreases risk of neurodegenerative diseases, promotes neuron growth and improves cognitive function. When you fast, a metabolic shift reduces the body’s leptin levels. Thus, the brain receives a chemical signal for neurons to produce more energy.




Traveling encourages neurogenesis by exposing your brain to new, fresh, and complex environments. Paul Nussbaum, a neuropsychologist from the University of Pittsburgh explains, “Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites.” And a week-long tour of another country isn’t necessary to get this benefit; take a weekend road trip to a different city.


Use Mnemonic Devices


Memory training promotes connectivity in your brain’s prefrontal parietal network and can slow memory loss with age. Mnemonic devices combine visualization, imagery, spatial navigation, and rhythm and melody, so they can reach various parts of the brain simultaneously.


Learn an Instrument


Musicians’ brains show sharp connectivity between brain areas. Neuroscientists explain that the multi-sensory experience of playing a musical instrument allows for the association of motor actions with specific sounds, and memorizing visual patterns leads to new neural networks being formed. As you practice a new instrument, the repetition will allow for neuroplasticity to do its work.


Non-Dominant Hand Exercises


Using your non-dominant hand during routine tasks can help form new neural pathways. Doing this strengthens connectivity between your brain cells. Studies also show that non-dominant hand activities improve emotional health and impulse control. Try switching hands during some simple tasks and give your brain a test.


Read Fiction


Studies show increased and ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading a novel. Enhanced brain activity occurred in the brain area that controls physical sensations and movement. Scientists explain that reading a novel can be a physical transportation into the fictional world. Shifting into this mental state is crucial for learning how to have complex social relationships.


Expand your Vocabulary


When you learn new words, the brain’s visual processes, memory processes, and auditory processes activate. The smaller your vocabulary, the more likely you are to have poor cognitive skills.




Studies show that sleep “helps learning retention with the growth of dendritic spines, the tiny protrusions that connect brain cells and facilitates the passage of information across synapses.” Getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night will help the brain retain information.


How Exactly Does Plasticity Improve the Mind?



In his book, Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life, Dr. Michael Merzenich, a leading pioneer in brain plasticity research and co-founder of Posit Science, lists ten core principles necessary for the remodeling of your brain to take place:

  1. Change is mostly limited to situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. If you are engaged, your brain will be too.
  2. Be more motivated and more alert. Those intensely focused on the task and devoted to mastering something will experience greater change.
  3. The strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, are actually what changes.
  4. Learning-motivated changes in connections increase cell-to-cell cooperation.
  5. The brain strengthens its connections between teams of neurons when things occur in the same order over time.
  6. Though the first brain changes are temporary, changes become permanent if your brain judges the experience to be worthy of remembrance.
  7. Brain changes happen through internal mental rehearsal just as physical rehearsal in the real world helps us learn and execute specific tasks.
  8. Memory is the key to learning. When you learn a new skill, your brain notes the good, the bad, and the ugly. The most recent good try is the one that the brain remembers.
  9. When your brain strengthens a connection in advancing your mastery of a task, it weakens unnecessary connections of neurons that weren’t used.
  10. Brain plasticity can go either way; you can generate negative changes just as easily as positive changes.


Maintaining Plasticity



We can understand that the brain is designed to be stimulated and challenged, to carefully examine and interpret the environment, and keep track of the details, all of which is necessary for survival.


But, people in society tend to remove themselves from details of life. They don’t keep track of things in their heads anymore; they use smartphones with speed dial, address books, and reminder features. They rely on GPS rather than paying attention to street signs and navigation skills.


As we age, we go from the acquisition of abilities to using the abilities acquired earlier in life. We operate on autopilot. The skills and tasks we have mastered are done simply by rote. We are largely disengaged.


Modern culture has reduced stimulation on the functional level, while we engage ourselves at an abstract level of operations. Details no longer matter and our brains are deteriorating as a result. As we continue to disengage from the simple act of memory recall, we are letting our brain plasticity lie dormant.


But, it is more than possible to maintain plasticity as we age. Humans have the ability to learn new things, master new skills or learn new languages, even into old age. This example of neuroplasticity will most likely involve structural and biochemical changes at the level of the synapse.


Adult brains remember new activities through repetition. When an enriched and stimulating environment is offered to a damaged brain, recovery can occur. Not everyone will be able to recover, however. The amount of brain damage and the treatments and rehabilitation will be the key to engaging neuroplasticity.




The brain is an amazing source of skill, memory, and functionality. Its ability to continuously improve functionally and structurally make human beings one of the most sophisticated creatures on the planet.


We all have the power to train, modify, and heal our own brains through hard work, focused effort, and a belief in the power of the mind.



Luciferovy poznámky:


Svolení k prezentaci tohoto článku na Neviditelném čertovi jsem dostal od autorky, která zde již stejným způsobem přispěla pojednáním What Are Carbon Nanotubes and Why Should You Care? V podstatě jsem ho překopíroval z originálního zdroje, na který mě autorka navedla. Autorka mi též sdělila, že podnět k tomuto pojednání nalezla na NČ v podobě Digitální demence – Paměťové stopy.


Ústřední myšlenka článku Anny Kucirkove spočívá v tom, že náš mozek se může neustále „plasticky“ vyvíjet. Původní představa, že tento vývoj je víceméně ukončen někdy po dosažení dospělosti, byla neurovědci vyvrácena. Vývoj vašeho mozku může pokračovat tak dlouho, jak budete chtít. Záleží jenom na vás. Někteří to zabalí už po skončení základní školní docházky, jiní svůj mozek plasticky přetvářejí pořád.


Nejsem neurovědcem, takže se k tomu nemohu nijak vědecky vyjádřit. Mám však určité životní zkušenosti. Kupříkladu takovou, že kromě mozku, kde sídlí vaše vědomí, tedy vy vlastně jako takoví, byste se měli náležitě plasticky věnovat i jiným částem těla. Třeba v podobě sexu. Ačkoli se to zpočátku nezdá, jelikož během této formy tělocviku se mozek přeskupuje do pohlavních orgánů, po vyvrcholení nastává neuvěřitelná zpětná vazba, která váš mozek dokáže skvělým způsobem plasticky obohatit.

komentářů: 63         

Komentáře (63)

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Z. (neregistrovaný) 26.06.2018, 02:44:44
Ke komentu 46 a 47: Hlavu si nelameme. Uklizecka neuklizecka, ale: bylo mi pred casem vytykano ze neouzivam diakritiku - tak jsem polepsila, ale program dobre nefunguje ani nemuze. Meni smysl napsaneho a je nutno to stejne opravovat.

Lucifer * 24.06.2018, 21:38:02
A je hotovo. Patnáct minut před koncem Polsko - Kolumbie 0:3. Poláci si zahrají ještě jednou, s Japonci, a potom pá pá Nerozhodný

G (neregistrovaný) 24.06.2018, 21:19:55
Mňeli se líp učit

Ospalý Plačící Nerozhodný

Lucifer * 24.06.2018, 21:12:56
Jsem po snídani a k dopolednímu odpočinku jsem si pustil druhou půli fotbalového zápasu na MS mezi Polskem a Kolumbií. Poláci se snaží seč mohou, ale zatím to vypadá , že dopadnou jako na poloostrově Westerplatte Úžasný

G (neregistrovaný) 24.06.2018, 21:04:45
Učinňená smršť kchomentů, to teda neberu, gonna, too »

xxx (neregistrovaný) 24.06.2018, 21:03:26
Zdravá snídaně:

xxx (neregistrovaný) 24.06.2018, 20:54:23
Kde my budem...

Lucifer * 24.06.2018, 20:52:25
Tučnou snídani v trávě
Smějící se

Lucifer * 24.06.2018, 20:49:17
Jdu si dát snídani

G (neregistrovaný) 24.06.2018, 20:44:11
Dobré jitro, přecedo, do růžova, dorůžova?
My tu jen tak laškujem ale jednotíme tu řípu poctivje, to zas jó, bes obaf. Hele, támhle jedna zbyla...
Pchá, prej vatrló...
To byl čajíček..
My se Stellou uš votpočíváme a votpočítáváme, žejóó?


Lucifer * 24.06.2018, 20:11:27
Tady to vypadá, jako když Napolión z bon Apartu očumoval u Waterloo
S vyplazeným jazykem

G (neregistrovaný) 24.06.2018, 20:05:45
Bububu, to ses lekla, až Ti...
Neboj uš, máme přeci vjetce »»»
Zpřesněné výpočty krátce po objevu ukázaly, že nebyla vyloučena srážka tohoto tělesa se Zemí dne 13. dubna 2029 a těleso se dostalo na seznam nebezpečných planetek (PHA). Riziko srážky bylo tehdy oceněno stupněm 4 na desetistupňové turínské stupnici, přičemž pravděpodobnost srážky byla vypočtena na 1,6 %, čili 60:1. Proto se do sledování objektu zapojilo mnoho dalších observatoří na jižní polokouli a na jihu USA. Jak se zpřesňovaly elementy dráhy, nejprve pravděpodobnost srážky se Zemí rostla (k 27. prosinci 2004 stoupla na 2,7 % , tj. 1:37). Při kolizní rychlosti 12,59 km/s by energie srážky odpovídala podle současných odhadů velikosti a hmotnosti tělesa ekvivalentu přibližně 850 Mt TNT (pro srovnání Tunguský meteorit vyvolal efekt mezi 10 až 20 Mt TNT a exploze sopky Krakatoa asi 200 Mt TNT). Poté ale byly v archivech nalezeny předobjevové snímky z 15. března 2004, které dále zpřesnily znalost dráhy a srážku se Zemí v roce 2029 prakticky vyloučily. Planetka měla minout Zemi ve vzdálenosti 35 720 km od jejího středu, neboli asi 30 000 km nad zemským povrchem. Přímá kolize se Zemí však byla i tak vyloučena. Také další přesná radiolokační měření, uskutečněná 300m radioteleskopem Arecibo na Portoriku z 27. ledna až 30. ledna 2005, srážku vyloučila (průlet ve vzdálenosti 36 802 ± 1957 km od středu Země).
Tágže za mňe dobrý, du si dát panáka...

G (neregistrovaný) 24.06.2018, 19:55:47
A japa se zove ten 419ti metrovej oblázek, co křísne o naši kouli za 9,41 let, a za dalších 4,91 ji políbí naplno?

G (neregistrovaný) 24.06.2018, 19:49:35
[50] Apomorfíza je řecký výras, ty jedeš...
A co tagle švédina, bes trojky, ale top »

To je něco mezi paštůnštinou a maďarštinou, imho.
Eště že mám ten štokholmskej syndróm, miluji své vjeznitele.
Sem to ale tele...
Papá, du na top caty.
Krmit. Mrkající

Z. (neregistrovaný) 24.06.2018, 19:03:36
Ona situace se rapidne horsi, byl ajsem svedkem scenky, kdy jeden clovek nadaval neurvale druhemu a posilal ho zpet do jeho 'shitove' zeme - ten ani neodporoval a odesel. Agresora se ptali z jake zeme je on a rekl narodil jsem se v Polsku ale ted jsem American.

Funguje to funguje to..

je mne z toho smutno..

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