Neuroplasticity: The smart technology in your head
Once upon a time, scientists thought our brains were hard-wired for life, with a set number of brain cells and functionality. Until, that is, the late twentieth century, when that idea was proven totally bogus with the first major study demonstrating evidence of neuroplasticity – changes in the brain in response to a person’s environment.
It is now well understood that our brains can change in response to our experiences and how we use it. Neuroplasticity means that we can structurally change how our brain works by changing our environment, thoughts and actions.
This doesn’t mean we can simply “think” or “will” our way out of a health condition, but it does mean that our environment, actions and thoughts have an impact on our brain health. Cognitive behavioral therapy, brain training, mindfulness practices and even regular exercise can change how our brain functions and have the potential to reduce stress, ease symptoms of brain disorders, and improve our day-to-day lives. The key is to find the things that work well for you, and then make a regular practice out of them.
As we incorporate new behaviors and thinking patterns, the brain adapts these as new connections. This is why starting a new habit (like exercise) is difficult, but as the brain adapts, it becomes easier and easier, until it is second nature. More fun facts about neuroplasticity: