For 400 years, it was believed that the brain was permanently fixed but that is simply not true. Just ask yourself, have your behaviours and thoughts changed from 15 years ago? Most likely, the answer is yes and that is because our experiences play a role in shaping our brains. These shifts are neuroplasticity in action.
To understand what neuroplasticity is, you must first know the meaning of plasticity. Plasticity is derived from the word plastic and plastic is something that can easily be shaped, molded and/or altered. Not everything can be organized as neatly as the spools in the picture, but we can help influence change in the brain. Neuroplasticity uses the same concept as it is the brain’s ability to reorganize and restructure itself by forming new neural connections in response to learning and other events. Neural connections are connections between nerve cells called neurons and as mentioned in our last blog post, the human brain contains about 100 billion neurons. Attached to these neurons are long nerve fibers called axons which transmit information to different neurons, glands and muscles. If an axon is undamaged, it is able to grow new nerve endings to reconnect injured neurons and form new neural pathways.
Neural pathways are reinforced with every repeated thought or emotion and with every new thought, we begin to create a new way of being. If frequently repeated, these small changes lead to changes in our brain. Like learning anything new, such as a language or riding a bike, children are able to quickly grasp change because our brains have the ability to change. As we age, our brains lose some of its neuroplasticity, which makes us more fixed in our thinking, learning, and perception, but this does not mean we cannot learn and change as we age.
Since the human brain is critical to all we think and do, it's important to harness neuroplasticity to improve our thoughts and actions. If you find that you are stuck in an anxious, stressed, distracted or foggy mental state, then your brain may need to reorganize itself. Luckily, neurofeedback works with the fundamental principles of neuroplasticity to help guide the brain to a healthier way of functioning. During a neurofeedback session, an individual is rewarded with a visual and auditory stimulus when certain brain waves increase or decrease. The rewards act as a reinforcement for your brain which essentially teaches you to have better control over your brainwave patterns. After a number of sessions, your brainwave activity may change, ultimately leading to natural improvement in your mood, sleep, and quality of life.
For more information on neuroplasticity, read The Brain that Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge or watch the documentary by clicking here.
Click here for more information on Neurofeedback.
Doidge, N. (2017). The brain that changes itself: Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science. Strawberry Hills, NSW: ReadHowYouWant.