The Growth of Learning
Over the years, the brain’s ability to rejuvenate or dynamically adapt has been meticulously researched and documented, regarding questions of learning, injury, aging and disease. “Neural plasticity (also referred to as brain plasticity, cortical plasticity or cortical re-mapping)…was first proposed in 1890 by William James in The Principles of Psychology, though the idea was largely neglected for the next fifty years." (Squidoo, 2010, para. 1)
Since that time, many questions have been asked and answered, such as: Is it possible for humans improve cognitive skills or abilities through regenerative measures? In order to better understand the processes and many benefits of plasticity, further assessment of information related to the following areas will be necessary:
1. What is Neural Plasticity?
2. Does this process offer relief to brain injury victims?
3. What are the effects of plasticity to an aging brain?
4. Can plasticity ever be harmful?
What is Neural Plasticity?
“Plasticity IS the capacity of the brain to change with learning” (Michelon, 2008, para. 8). More specifically, it is a process of modifying the purpose and configuration of neurons, as well as the construction and fortification of synaptic connections. These adaptive alterations to the mapping of the brain, which most profoundly take place in younger people, are in response to positive or negative stimulation from a person’s body or factors of their environment.
Axonal growth, as part of this development, allows for substantial connectivity towards sensory perception, reflexes and many other daily actions that are generally taken for granted. Successful repair of nerve damage or improve overall brain functionality are only a few of the benefits plasticity can present.
Can this process offer relief to injury victims?
Massive insults to the brain will likely cause the death of millions of nerve cells and damage pathways which are used to keep them working together. Through the course of cortical remapping, these problems can be healed by making adjustments to these informational highways and cells to regain lost functions. With these abilities recaptured, the victim is likely to experience higher qualities of life. In instances where cognitive therapy is used to promote stimulation, considerably less recovery time than normal is often observed, due to plasticity.
What are the effects of plasticity to an aging brain?
As Jones et al. (2006, p. 1) wrote: “There is evidence for cognitive as well as neural plasticity across the adult life span, although aging is associated with certain constraints on plasticity”. Even though cognitive related functions will often diminish through time, the course of neural adaptation does continue, especially in cases where ample stimulation is consistently offered to an aging brain. Under these conditions, the degeneration of neural material and related circuits will be reduced, which...