Neuroplasticity is the science that enables us to be the architects of our brain. By manipulating the brain’s malleability or plasticity, we can rewire our brain, altering our neurochemistry to change our beliefs, thoughts processes, emotions and much more. The endless possibilities make this process an important tool in everyone’s toolbox. Do you also want control over unhealthy desires or addiction? Neuroplasticity is the answer!
In neuroscience, “plastic” means that a material has the ability to change, to be molded into different shapes. Thus, neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to alter its physical structure, to repair damaged regions, to grow new neurons and get rid of old ones. Another ability we find, is power to rezone regions that performed one task and have them assume a new task; to change the circuitry that weaves neurons into the networks that allow us to remember, feel, suffer, think, imagine, and dream.
Not so long ago, many scientists believed that the brain wasn’t able to change after childhood, that it was hard-wired, and fixed by the time we became adults. Recent advances in only the last decade, now tell us that this is simply not true. The brain can, and does change throughout our lives. It is adaptable and like plastic it adapts, hence neuroscientists call this “neuroplasticity“.
“Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking, and emotions – as well as to changes resulting from bodily injury. The concept of neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes in the course of a lifetime.” (Pascual-Leone et al, 2005)
How Does Neuroplasticity Work?
If you think of your brain as a dynamic, connected power grid, you will find billions of pathways or roads, lighting up every time you think, feel or do something. Some of these roads are well travelled: These are your habits, your established ways of thinking, feeling and doing. Every time you think in a certain way, practice a particular task or feel a specific emotion, you strengthen this road. It becomes easier for your brain to travel this pathway. This is your comfort zone.
However, if we undertake a new activity such as learning a new task, a new language, or experiencing a new emotion, then we start carving out a new road. If we keep traveling that road, our brains begin to use this pathway more, and this new way of thinking, feeling, or doing becomes second nature. The old pathway gets used less and less and weakens. This process or rewiring our brains by forming new connections and weakening old ones is neuroplasticity in action!
The good news is that we all have the ability to learn or change, by rewiring our brains. If you have ever changed a bad habit, or thought about something differently, you have carved a new pathway in your brain and experienced neuroplasticity firsthand. With repeated and directed attention towards your desired change, you can rewire your brain!
The Neuroplasticity Process
How does the neuroplasticity process take place? Well, the process is initiated when your brain is exposed to new, specific and repeated stimulation.
To create new pathways, there is an interaction and chemical production called: Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). As the stimuli are repeated, more of this chemical is produced and the neuro way becomes stronger.