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Neuroplasticity is the amazing ability of the brain to change and adapt. It refers to the physiological changes that occur as a result of our interactions with the environment. Thanks to this process our neurons are able to change their connections and behavior in response to new information, sensory stimulation, development, damage or dysfunction.
What is neuroplasticity?
From the moment the brain begins to develop in the womb and until the day we die, the connections between neurons are reorganized in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn and adapt to different experiences.
Our brains are constantly being molded thanks to experience. Most of us have very different behaviors and thoughts today than 20 years ago. This change is neuroplasticity in action, because we generate changes in the structure and organization of the brain as we experience, learn and adapt.
With each repetition of a thought or emotion, we reinforce a neural path, and With each new thought, we begin to create a new way of being. These small changes, often repeated, lead to real changes in the functioning of our brain.
Neuroplasticity is part of brain development; The things we do often strengthen our neuronal synapses, and those that don't, fade away from lack of use. That is the physical basis of why having a thought or taking an action over and over again increases its power over us and changes us. Over time, everything we have had to do forcedly becomes automatic (like driving) and becomes part of us. We literally become what we think and do.
Neuroplasticity is active throughout life. Connections inside the brain become stronger or weaker, depending on what they are being used. Younger people change more easily, since their brains are very plastic. As we age, change is not so easy, the brain loses some of its plasticity and we become more fixed in how we think, learn and perceive, but it does not mean that changes occur, much less.
Since the brain is fundamental to everything we think and do, by harnessing neuroplasticity we can improve everything we do and think. If we are really motivated and delivered, at any moment we can take control of our mind.
Neuroplasticity and brain injuries
Neuroplasticity is a determining factor in recovery after a brain injury, if it did not exist, all the physical and cognitive rehabilitation practices that are carried out would not make sense. It is for this reason that all rehabilitation aims try to rebuild the connections between nerve cells or neurons. This "re-wiring" of the brain can make it possible for a function that was previously executed through a now damaged area to be generated by another undamaged area. Fortunately, these connections between cells are infinitely receptive to this type of change and expansion.
On the other hand, recent research has shown that neurogenesis or creation of new neurons continues throughout our, but especially in certain specific areas of the brain. Thus, researchers are exploring ways to identify these areas of the brain where new cells develop, discover how to promote or inhibit neurogenesis, and learn how new neurons can become part of a functional brain. The hope is that this information will finally help people recover better from a brain injury.