What is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity seems like something a person would read about in a science-fiction novel. How can the brain, a seemingly unchanging mass of brain-goo, be constantly re-modelling and changing itself? As crazy as it seems, research has shown that throughout a person’s life, even as a person reaches adulthood, there are parts of the brain that remain “plastic” or moldable. For example, if a person loses their sight, the neurons associated with sight are re-wired to be used for other senses, such as touch or hearing. Although a child’s brain exhibits more neuroplasticity, the adult brain is still surprisingly flexible. This is specifically relevant to students, who use the brain’s natural ability to change for their own benefit.
The Student Guide to Revamping Their Brain
Feel less stressed, get better sleep, and feel more in control of your life!
For most of neuroscience’s history, scientists believed that the brain was fixed or set. However, we now know that the brain changes itself in response to experiences, stimuli, thoughts, and the environment. Rather than being a static machine, the brain is constantly processing information and making new neural connections and letting old ones die. Evidence for this phenomena comes from the effect of meditation on the brain. Richard Davidson, a researcher from the University of Wisconsin, studied the effects of both short and long-term meditation practices. The researcher found that the meditator brain’s were different from the non-meditator brain’s. Not only did individuals who meditate feel less stressed, depressed, and more content, their actual brain showed differences too! On average, those who had a consistent mediation practice had more gray matter, which has been linked to mood control and decision making.
If you need another reason to exercise, look so further! Exercise has been shown to not only increase spatial memory, but it promotes the generation and growth of neurons. People that exercise consistently have been shown to have a higher grey matter mass, especially grey matter associated with cognitive control. So, if you exercise, you might think and function better!
3. Change Your Thoughts
Although it’s surprising to think about, but the way we think can have an effect on our physical brain. When you think a thought, the brain forms a neural pathway. When you think that thought again, the neural pathway grows stronger. It is similar to the way a canyon is formed. Water flows through a canyon for years, making the path deeper and wider. Thought is powerful. When a person believes something, it has a physical manifestation in the brain. If a student believes that they can never be good at math, they will form a mental block. However, if they practice doing math, their brain will form a mini “map” for math and they will get better at it. The way we think can shape our worldview, what we do, and how we behave. It is good to be aware of that, even though a large part of our thoughts are not in our conscious awareness.
Doidge, N. (2017). The brain that changes itself: Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science. Strawberry Hills, NSW: ReadHowYouWant.
Lutz, A., Greischar, L. L., Rawlings, N. B., Ricard, M., & Davidson, R. J. (2004). Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101(46), 16369-16373. doi:10.1073/pnas.0407401101
Begley, S. (2007, January 19). How Thinking Can Change the Brain. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB116915058061980596