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Neural Plasticity

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Neural Plasticity

To say that the cerebral cortex is important is quite an understatement. The process seen in the cerebral cortex of our brain is essential to us as humans.

But what happens if we sustain an injury? The following text explains how our brains can somewhat repair the damage. Also, it describes neural plasticity fosters learning.

  • What is brain plasticity?
  • What are types of brain plasticity?
  • Why is brain plasticity important?

Definition of Brian Plasticity

Plasticity is the brain's capacity to change simply by reorganizing and modifying neurons after damage or learning a new skill. Damage to the brain can be detrimental; however, in some cases, there are signs that the brain can help repair itself.

Damage

There are two topics about brain damage that should be mentioned when discussing plasticity. It should be known that areas of the brain have preassigned functions and can not newly function in other brain areas. For example, if a person experiences damage to the occipital lobe, it could result in the inability to recognize objects or affect the spatial analysis. Also, once cut, neurons are not able to regenerate themselves. But, some neural tissue can reorganize itself to function.

Neural Plasticity, damaged brain, StudySmarterDamaged brain, flaticon.com

Plasticity comes into play after a severe injury and has been shown to occur more often in younger children. Specialists often apply constrained-induced therapy to help rewire the brain. For example, in the case of an adult stroke victim, it is common for a health professional to bind the non-affected appendage (leg, arm, etc.) so that the patient is forced to try and engage the affected appendage. This is helpful in slowly reprogramming the brain in the event of damage.

Blindness and Deafness

For blind and deaf people, there is an intriguing concept that involves plasticity. For example, if a blind person relies on using their index finger to read braille, there are new neural pathways that the brain creates. If a person who is blind is not able to use their eyes for image processing, they often develop a higher sense of hearing. This is an excellent example of functional plasticity in the brain.

Neurogenesis

The process by which our brain tries to fix or create new brain cells is called neurogenesis. Freshly made or "baby" neurons are found deep within the tissues of our brains. These babies reach out and connect with their neighbors or other neurons. And bam! Neurogenesis!

Types of Brain Plasticity

There are two types of brain plasticity.

Structural plasticity of the brain means changes to the physical structure because of learning. For example, when a child learns to speak and acquire language.

Functional plasticity means that functions of the brain move from the damaged area to the undamaged areas of the brain.

Functions and Limitations of Neural Plasticity

There is a phenomenon in our brain (amongst many) called synaptic pruning. This means that when synaptic connections are used more frequently, they become much stronger. What about the ones we don't use often enough? When a strong synaptic connection hasn't been made, these neurons eventually die. This act of pruning is helpful to our brain and allows for stronger connections to be made in the future.

Importance of Neural Plasticity in Psychology

Plasticity can help us understand how we learn things. It also shows our ability to gain more cognitive abilities. The more workout we give our brain, the stronger our connections become, and it is less likely that these connections will be lost. Neural plasticity within our cerebral cortex is essential to our development from early years well into adulthood. It allows us to learn and adapt to our environment, such as language acquisition, understanding how to walk, remembering not to touch hot objects, etc.

How to Increase Neural Plasticity

There are many ways to exercise your brain to improve growth and plasticity. To do so, it is beneficial to create an environment that fosters learning. Think about learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, reading, or creating art.

Neural Plasticity, increasing neural plasticity through playing a musical instrument, StudySmarter Playing the piano, flaticon.com

Besides creating enriched learning environments, proper sleeping habits and adequate amounts of sleep can help increase neural plasticity. Finally, don't forget that exercising and physical activity can help to strengthen connections through memory and body functions.

Neural Plasticity - Key takeaways

  • Plasticity is the brain's capacity to change simply by reorganizing and modifying neurons after damage or learning a new skill.
  • Synaptic pruning means that neurons without a strong synaptic connection eventually die.
  • When synaptic connections are used more frequently, they become much stronger.
  • There are two types of brain plasticity; structural and functional.
    • Structural plasticity of the brain means changes to the physical structure because of learning.
    • Functional plasticity means that functions of the brain move from the damaged area to the undamaged areas of the brain.
  • The process by which our brain tries to fix or create new brain cells is called neurogenesis.

Frequently Asked Questions about Neural Plasticity

Plasticity is the brain's capacity to change simply by reorganizing and modifying neurons after damage or learning a new skill. Damage to the brain can be detrimental; however, in some cases, there are signs that the brain can help repair itself. 

The two types of brain plasticity are structural and functional.

To increase neural plasticity, one should exercise their brain. It is beneficial to create an environment that fosters learning. Think about learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, reading, or creating art. 

Also, proper sleeping habits and adequate amounts of sleep can help increase neural plasticity.

Neural plasticity is important in psychology because it can help us understand how we learn things. It also shows our ability to gain more cognitive abilities. The more workout we give our brain, the stronger our connections become, and it is less likely that these connections will be lost. Neural plasticity within our cerebral cortex is important to our development from early years well into adulthood. 

Neural plasticity contributes to learning because it allows us to learn and adapt to our environment, such as language acquisition, understanding how to walk, learning not to touch hot objects, etc. 

Final Neural Plasticity Quiz

Question

_____ is the brain's capacity to change simply by reorganizing and modifying neurons after damage or learning a new skill.

Show answer

Answer

Plasticity

Show question

Question

What is synaptic pruning?

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Answer

When synaptic connections are used more frequently, they become much stronger. 

When a strong synaptic connection hasn't been made, these neurons eventually die.

Show question

Question

There are two types of brain plasticity; _____ and _____


Show answer

Answer

structural and functional

Show question

Question

___ plasticity of the brain means changes to the physical structure because of learning.

Show answer

Answer

Structural

Show question

Question

_____ plasticity means that functions of the brain move from the damaged area to the undamaged areas of the brain.

Show answer

Answer

Functional

Show question

Question

Most often used in the aid of

plasticity is ______.

Show answer

Answer

constrained-induced therapy

Show question

Question

The process by which our brain tries to fix or create new brain cells is called  ____.

Show answer

Answer

neurogenesis.

Show question

Question

What are some ways to help improve neural plasticity in the brain?


Show answer

Answer

Learning a new language, reading, creating art, learning a musical instrument. Sleep. Exercise. 

Show question

Question

Why is plasticity important?

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Answer

Plasticity can help us understand how we learn things. It also shows our ability to gain more cognitive abilities. The more workout we give our brain, the stronger our connections become, and it is less likely that these connections will be lost. 

Show question

Question

True or False 

Neurons are not able to regenerate themselves.


Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or False

Neural tissue can reorganize itself to function.


Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

True or False: Although damage to the brain can be detrimental, there are some cases in which signs have shown that the brain can help repair itself.   

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

True or False: Once cut, neurons are not able to regenerate themselves. 

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank: If a person experiences damage to the __________ lobe, it could result in the inability to recognize objects or affect the spatial analysis.  

Show answer

Answer

occipital

Show question

Question

True or False: In the case of an adult stroke victim, it is common for a health professional to bind the non-affected appendage (leg, arm, etc.) so that the patient is forced to try and engage the affected appendage.  

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank: If a person who is blind is not able to use their eyes for image processing, they often develop a ________ sense of hearing. 

Show answer

Answer

higher

Show question

Question

True or False: Specialists often apply constrained-induced therapy to help rewire the brain.  

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

True or False: Freshly made or "baby" neurons are found deep within the tissues of our brains. 

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank: Neural plasticity within our __________ __________ is essential to our development from early years well into adulthood. 

Show answer

Answer

cerebral cortex

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank: Besides creating enriched learning environments, proper sleeping habits and adequate amounts of ___________ can help increase neural plasticity. 

Show answer

Answer

sleep 

Show question

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