The Science

Brain Parts and Functions

How the Brain Works

What is Neuroplasticity?

Research

The more you learn, the richer your synapses... and the richer your synapses, the more you learn!















What is Neuroplasticity

neurons Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain and nervous system to change structurally and functionally as a result of input from the environment. Plasticity occurs on a variety of levels, ranging from cellular changes involved in learning, to large-scale changes involved in cortical remapping in response to injury. The most widely recognized forms of plasticity are learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage.

One of the fundamental principles of how neuroplasticity functions is linked to the concept of synaptic pruning, the idea that individual connections within the brain are constantly being removed or recreated, largely dependent upon how they are used. From before birth into young adulthood, synapses are overproduced by genetic programming and then systematically pruned in a process that is driven largely by experience. This process of "produce-and-prune," which occurs in waves in different brain areas, is fundamental to brain development. Synapses continue to be added and modified throughout life. These later modifications are driven by experience -- that is, by learning. Experience-driven changes are either structural, as when new spines sprout up along dendrites to create new synapses, or chemical, as when a larger spurt of neurotransmitter is released at a well-used synapse. In both cases, the result is a denser, richer network of synaptic connections.

Think back to the first time you rode a bike. Your brain had to think about pedaling, staying balanced, steering with the handlebars, watching the road, and maybe even hitting the brakes -- all at once. Hard work, right? But eventually, as you got more practice, the neurons sent messages back and forth until a pathway was created in your brain. Now you can ride your bike without thinking about it because the neurons have successfully created a "bike riding" pathway.