What is Neuroplasticity in the Brain?

Neuroplasticity in the brain can help treat brain injuries and recover functionality. Keep reading to learn more about this interesting topic.
What is Neuroplasticity in the Brain?

Last update: 23 February, 2020

Neuroplasticity in the brain, also known as cerebral plasticity, is one of the most significant recent discoveries about the human body. It’s the brain’s ability to change and adapt to new behaviors or experiences.

Until recently, scientists thought that neural circuits formed and changed only during childhood. In other words, they thought it was impossible to change or make new connections in adulthood based on experiences or learning.

However, scientists discovered that our brain neurons can constantly regenerate. In fact, they do this not only anatomically, but they can also form new connections. This concept is commonly known as “neuroplasticity.” Although it seems simple, it’s what lets the brain recover from certain injuries or disorders.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about neuroplasticity in the brain.

What is neuroplasticity in the brain?

In the past, scientists believed that nerve tissue could only change early in life. This meant that they believed it was impossible to recover from any brain tissue. However, in recent years, researchers discovered that this is not the case.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of neurons to regenerate. They do this both anatomically and functionally. In fact, it’s a process that involves many biochemical and metabolic reactions. Also, it means it has great adaption potential.

Neuroplasticity refers to the way our nervous system has to form new connections. In addition, it does this in response to new stimuli, information, or even to heal damage in old connections.

Scientists started noticing this issue in the 1960s. They paid attention to several cases of adults who had suffered strokes. In fact, they noticed that, sometime after the injury, many seemed to recover. Then, they started performing different imaging and stimulation tests to show that neuroplasticity exists. Scientists are still researching all of the aspects of this phenomenon.

People having strokes is what made scientists interested in researching neuroplasticity in the brain.

How does neuroplasticity work?

The synapse is the area where neurons communicate with each other. When we’re born, there is only a limited number of synapses per neuron in the cerebral cortex. In fact, specialists think there are about 2,500 synapses. However, as the years go by, this number increases to almost 10,000 synapses per neuron.

This happens because, as we grow, we experience and learn different behaviors. All of this causes new brain connections to form and strengthens others. However, it also means that those that you don’t use die.

With neuroplasticity in the brain, new synapses can form or regenerate throughout life. In fact, this happens through various molecular and chemical mechanisms. Therefore, every time you learn new things, synapses strengthen or even increase.

The most important things that happen here are:

  • The excitability of the neuron is recovered. This happens because the balance between ions inside and outside the neurons is restored.
  • Parts of the neuron that were damaged regenerate, particularly the axon.
  • There’s a recovery of circuits that were not active.

These reactions are very complicated. However, the result is that there are more connections in the brain.

Synapses are the physical space where neuroplasticity in the brain takes place.

The importance of this finding

Neuroplasticity in the brain is primarily important for therapy. By finding out that this process exists, researchers discovered that lots of brain injuries are actually treatable. Therefore, by creating new connections, the brain can restore certain functions.

For example, researchers are studying this in people with traumatic injuries. However, there are other diseases that doctors could improve with this knowledge:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Certain types of schizophrenia
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
  • Anxiety and depression

Hopefully, specialists will keep learning even more. After all, knowing this about the brain can help improve the outcome of many more diseases in the future.

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