Plasticity – the power of the brain to change itself
We know a lot about the concept of elasticity – something which becomes less and less as we become older and older. There are many creams and potions used to reverse elasticity. But is there a connexion between elasticity and plasticity? Can we signal the brain the reverse elasticity?
Dr Merzenich and his colleagues are now sharing the concept of plasticity – the positive and negative aspects of plasticity in relation to the brain and its function. There is a plasticity switch which we have the power of turning on and off, if we are aware that we can. But many of us have no clue that through our thought patterns, through exercises, through taxing and systematically improving the brain, that our brain can change itself.
If we, or better yet, when we engage the brain in new learning, new and challenging tasks, we ramp up the positive side of plasticity. However, this could mean that doing the same thing over and over again, once we have got the hang of it, might just take us down the negative pathway, might induce negative plasticity as there are no longer any new and challenging tasks to tackle. For example, learning a new technique, a new language, the computer…these all promote positive plasticity. But once we learn them and they become automatic, this can lead to negative plasticity. The secret is therefore in us constantly being in the now zone, being aware of the newsness around, taking time out to smell the fresh new fragrances around us, keeping the brain focused on what is new and not necessarily what is known.
This December, public television stations across the country will air a special program that explores the brain’s amazing ability to change throughout a person’s life. This phenomenon—called neuroplasticty—is the science behind brain fitness, and it has been called one of the most extraordinary scientific discoveries of the 20th century – neuroscience, psychology and neurology meet at the juncture of the brain.
The PBS special, called The Brain Fitness Program, explains the brain’s complexities in a way that both scientists and people with no scientific background can appreciate. The show is narrated by Emmy Award-winning actor Peter Coyote and features experts in the field of neuroplasticity, including Dr. Norman Doidge, Sharon Begley, and Dr. Michael Merzenich, founder of Posit Science and creator of the Brain Fitness Program software.
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Source: wliw.org; positscience.com