What is neuroplasticity?

An explanation of neuroplasticity



What is neuroplasticity?


You might have heard the term thrown around before, and it's critical you know more about it now. I know I was confused when I first heard the terms many years ago, but as I struggle with building new habits, it was an important part of my neuro tool kit.


The very technical and wordy definition is it's the ability of the nervous system to undergo physiological changes as a result of genetic, behavioural and environmental changes.


Basically it means you can change who you are by what you do, with repetition and focus as key to neuroplasticity.


When the brain suffers an injury such as stroke, damage or a block to certain parts of the brain like the primary motor cortex, the injury stops messages from one part of the nervous system or the other from working correctly.


An important thing to know about neuroplasticity as well is that areas of the brain that aren't damaged will take over areas that are damaged that control a particular function (such as hand grip, leg movement, eye control etc) over time. So if you have damage in the part of your brain that controls speech, you may find it hard to find the right words (called Aphasia, and we will do a whole blog post on that here) but over time other parts of the brain will take up the slack so to speak.


The brain can change!


The brain is remarkably adaptable, once thought that we were fixed we now know it can change through repeated effort. A groundbreaking book still relevant to this is called the brain that changes itself, which is an excellent primer for anyone who wants to know more.


A famous adage of neurology is neurons that fire together wire together; neurons that fire apart wire apart. That's why repeating your exercises over time you will start to see progress and recovery. This principle works on something called short and long term potentiation.


Building a new habit and repetition


In a much simpler way to put it, the more you do a thing (such as a movement, thought or activity) the more connections and pathways the brain builds that are sustained over time.


You can do interesting things with the wire together fire principle like combining different sensory inputs together to associate your exercises with things like smell, touch and sound. Conclusion


It's going to be hard to build new pathways at first and everyone's recovery journey is different. When rewiring or trying to build a new pathway it will feel unpleasant and difficult the first few times but that is a good sign.


It means your brain is trying to change and you will see it over time it will become easier and easier.


That is why building a new habit is so hard, because the brain does not have the neuronal pathways encoded yet.


We know it's hard, but we know with persistence, patience and kindness to yourself, YOU CAN DO IT!


Much love on your recovery journey, and we look forward to seeing your results. Please check out https://positivepsychology.com/neuroplasticity/ for more information.



References

1.The brain that changes itself (https://www.amazon.com.au/Brain-That-Changes-Itself-Frontiers-ebook/dp/B000QCTNIW) 2. https://positivepsychology.com/neuroplasticity/

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