Brain Plasticity Surface in Nearly Every Field Of Neuroscience
BRAIN PLASTICITY AND NEUROSCIENCE 1
Brain plasticity surface in nearly every field of neuroscience
Alsoreferred to as cortical remapping or neuroplasticity, brainplasticity refers to the innate ability of the brain to change andmore so, adapt through experience. Early psychologists believed thatbrain plasticity occurred in children only, such that after onereached early adulthood, the physical structure of the brain hadattained a state of permanency (Bavelier 2012, p. 403). However,modern psychology has through research demonstrated that novel neuralpathways continue to be created in the brain as existing pathways arealtered. Neuroplasticity thus continues to be exhibited in the brainso human beings can be able progressively adapt to fresh experiences,for the creation of new memories and the ability to learn novelinformation. This paper seeks to discuss and provides examples ofbrain plasticity surface in the field of neurology in followingsystems visual, auditory, motor, language, and memory.
Theworkings of brain plasticity
A humanbeing`s brain is known to be made up of more than 100 billionneurons. Early neurologists believed that the process of neuroncreation also referred to as neurogenesis ceased soon after birth. New research in neurology has offered proof that the human brainindeed has exceptional abilities to restructure neural pathways,realize the creation of new neural connections and in some specificcases bring about the creation of new neurons (Hensch 2014, p. 17).Brain plasticity is influenced by age and as much as plasticitycontinues throughout one`s lifetime, some aspects of brain plasticityare more pronounced in very specific development stages. Brainplasticity incorporates various process and is not limited to neuronsonly but also includes vascular and glial brain cells. It occursbecause of two distinctively different reasons, recovery from braindamage and due to new learning experiences and subsequent memoryformation. Brain plasticity is influenced by the environment as wellas individual genetic traits.
In theearly years of a child`s development, rapid rates of braindevelopment are known to occur. Researchers estimate that one neuronin a new-born baby`s cerebral cortex contains approximately 2400synapses (Bavelier 2012, p. 399 Kolb 2013, p. 19). By the time, achild attains the age of three years, synapses in each neuron in thecerebral context number 15,000. However, an average adult only hasapproximately 7500 synapses per neuron. This is because as adultsgain fresh experiences, some of the synapses are strengthened asothers are erased. This is done through a process referred to assynaptic pruning. Neurons, which are actively used by the brain, tendto be strengthened and those that are seldom used are left to die(Hensch 2014, p. 17). This is the process through which the braintends to adopt to changes in the environment.
There areto major forms of brain plasticity: functional plasticity andstructural plasticity (Bavelier 2012, p. 398). Structural plasticityentails changes in the physical structure of the brain enabledthrough learning experiences. Functional plasticity on the other handrelates to the brains tendency to transfer neural functions from aninjured part of the brain to undamaged regions.
Memory andbrain plasticity
Memoriesdefine an individual. Even in situations where two people are exposedto the same experience, individual memories tend to be distinctivelydifferent because of differences in individual memory capacities(Kolb 2013, p. 19). However, these memories can either last an entirelifetime or just for a short duration of time. The brain is known tohave more than one memory system each with different traits as isdefined by the type of neuronal network. The creation of new memoriesis dependent on synaptic plasticity. Working memory store informationin the brain for a short period when the brain is considered as beingin an active and conscious state. For instance, research studiesconducted involving children as participants have exhibited resultsthat indicate their working memory is profoundly different from thatof adults (Hockenbury & Hockenbury 2007, p. 25). As such, thismeans that the use of working memory in learning is strengthened asactively used synapses are continuously used. As children continuewith the learning process, they tend to improve their working memoryand as such, brain plasticity helps them to adapt to alterationsrequired to store larger working memory capacities.
Languageand brain plasticity
Language isa prominent ability common in human beings. It involves theapplication of complex neural components, which involve both sensorymotor systems as well as memory systems. It is common to finds thatindividuals lose the ability to use language after suffering from thedebilitating effects of a stroke (Doidge 2007, p. 11). It is alsocommon to find that people who have indulge in drug abuse over longperiods have tendencies to have slurred speech. As such, these areall aspects of brain injury. There are instances where plasticityoccurs such that brain damage occurs in areas dedicated to speechwhere the process transfers those processes to other parts of thebrain such that an affected individual can realize normal languageand speech over time (Hockenbury & Hockenbury 2007, p. 22).
Sensorymotor systems and brain plasticity
Reflexesare considered as the most significant and simplest of a human beingsmovement. They are essentially fixed and automated muscularresponses to specific stimuli. It is important to comprehend thateven the simplest reflex has to involve coordinated neural activity,which involve the controlled regulation of agonist as well asantagonist muscles (Doidge 2007, p. 11). The motor cortex is chargeswith coordinating reflexes such that damage to this area could todisability. However, through physiotherapy, brain plasticity isevoked and individuals can be seen to slowly return to normal use ofreflexes and other sensory motor skills.
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Doidge, N, (2007), TheBrain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from thefrontiers of brain science, New York: Viking.
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Hockenbury, D, &Hockenbury, S, E, (2007), Discovering Psychology, New York, NY: WorthPublishers.
Kolb, B, (2013), Brainplasticity and behavior, Psychology Press.