Have you ever wondered if our brain cells evolve or stay the same throughout our lifetime?
Our brain carries the ability to restructure and adapt itself as a result of experience, learning and environmental changes. So yes, the brain cells evolve overtime as “the brain is plastic” i.e., modifiable. Unlike computers, which consist of specific information that is stored forever, the brain is designed to approach a wider amount of information which occurs consciously and unconsciously and the brain allows us to adapt to that information for a brief or long period of time depending upon the strength of our brain cells.
Neuroplasticity is the capacity of our brain to modify itself as an effect of environmental, behavioral and neural changes and so our brain creates changes when exposed to new information. In a way, “neuroplasticity is a way for your brain in fine-tune itself for efficiency”.
Neuro (Nervous System in the brain) + Plasticity (Moldable) = A moldable brain
Can learning increase neuroplasticity?
When we learn something new, it harnesses the power of neuroplasticity. Learning with repetition and intensity increases our brain’s potential to form neurons and strengthen them for activity as the brain functions to create new knowledge. For growing children specially, as there are several new activities around them, the structure and function of their brain is continuously modified. In adults on the other hand, this ability of neuroplasticity reduces with time due to the brain aging.
How to increase neuroplasticity?
Anything that leads you to think analytically and practice can rewire the brain. Some of the strategies include:
· Using mnemonic devices: Chunking one of the popular ways to memories information by dividing it into chunks, for example, when we memorize phone numbers by creating a chunk or 4 or 5 digits. A second method is using Acronyms by simplifying information into abbreviations, for example, MBA for Masters of Business Administration or TED (talk) for Tell me, explain me, Describe to me (talk). Acrostic is another important way to remember information in an order, example, the meaning of the term RETIRE can be remembered as Relax Entertain Travel Indulge Read Enjoy
· Memory tasks: Juggle objects, play Sudoku, learn a musical instrument, learn to speak a new language, expand vocabulary, engage in mental math, using non-dominant hand exercise. An example may include writing and brushing your teeth with the opposite hand
· Meditation: Practicing meditation in daily life not only acts as a stress reliever and a type of anxiety counselling but also helps in increasing attention span and helps in channelizing the thoughts which is the true state of meditation and allows the individual to stay calm while tackling the pressure of today’s lifestyle.
Benefits of increasing neuroplasticity:
1. It enhances memory abilities
2. It protects against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
3. It helps to mitigate early aging of brain
4. It makes your brain adapt to changes inflicted by damage to the brain as a result of stroke
Does increasing Neuroplasticity help in overcoming anxiety and depression?
As depression leads the brain cells to weaken overtime, it reduces neuroplasticity. Research on neuroplasticity suggests that, “your day-to-day behaviors can have measurable effects on brain structure and function” (Hellerstein, 2011). Increasing the neuroplasticity in the brain can help treat both anxiety and depression with time and effort being utilised efficiently.
“Brain is a tricky and adaptable organ. For all the ‘neuroplasticity’ allowing our brains to reconfigure themselves to the biases of our computers, we are just as neuroplastic in our ability to eventually recover and adapt” - Douglas Rushkoff
Neuroplasticity Elastic Storage Capability of Brain