Examples of brain plasticity surface in nearly every field of Neuroscience
Also referred to as Cortical remapping or neuroplasticity, Brain plasticity refers the innate ability of the brain to change and more so adapt through experience. Early psychologists believed that brain plasticity occurred in children only such that after one reached early adulthood, the physical structure of the brain had attained a state of permanency. However, modern psychology has through research demonstrated that novel neural pathways continue to be created in the brain as existing pathways are altered. Neuroplasticity thus continues to be exhibited in the brain so human beings can be able progressively adapt to fresh experiences, for the creation of new memories and the ability to learn novel information. This paper seeks to discuss and provide examples of brain plasticity surface in the field of neurology in following systems visual, auditory, motor, language, and memory.
The workings of brain plasticity
A human being’s brain is known to be made up of more than 100 billion neurons. Early neurologists believed that the process of neuron creation also referred to as neurogenesis ceased soon after birth. New research in neurology has offered proof that the human brain indeed has exceptional abilities to restructure neural pathways, realize the creation of new neural connections and in some specific cases bring about the creation of new neurons.
Brain plasticity is influenced by age and as much as plasticity continues through out one’s lifetime, some aspects of brain plasticity are more pronounced in very specific development stages. Brain plasticity incorporate various process and is not limited to neurons only but also includes vascular and glial brain cells. It occurs as a result of two distinctively different reasons, recovery from brain damage and due to new learning experiences and subsequent memory formation. Brain plasticity is influenced by the environment as well as individual genetic traits.
In the early years of a child’s development, rapid rates of brain development are known to occur. Researchers estimate that one neuron in a newborn baby’s cerebral cortex contains approximately 2400 synapses. By the time a child attains the age of three years, synapses in each neuron in the cerebral context number 15,000. However, an average adult only has approximately 7500 synapses per neuron. This is due to the fact that as adults gain fresh experiences, some of the synapses are strengthened as others are erased. This is done through a process referred to as synaptic pruning. Neurons which are actively used by the brain tend to be strengthened and those that are seldom used are let to die. This is the process through which the brain tends to adopt to changes in the environment.
There are to major forms of brain plasticity. Functional plasticity and structural plasticity. Structural plasticity entails changes in the physical structure of the brain enabled through learning experiences. Functional plasticity on the other hand relates to the brains tendency to transfer neural functions from an injured part of the brain to undamaged regions.
Memory and brain plasticity
Memories define an individual. Even in situations where two people as exposed to the same experience, individual memories tend to be distinctively different as a result of differences in individual memory capacities. However, these memories can either last an entire lifetime or just for a short duration of time. The brain is known to have more than one memory system each with different traits as is defined by the type of neuronal network. The creation of new memories is dependent on synaptic plasticity. Working memory store information in the brain for a short period of time when the brain is considered as being in an active and conscious state. For instance, research studies conducted involving children as participants have exhibited results that indicate their working memory is profoundly different from that of adults. As such, this means that the use of working memory in learning is strengthened as actively used synapses are continuously used. As children continue with the learning process, the tend to improve their working memory and as such brain plasticity helps them to adapt to alterations required to store larger working memory capacities.
Language and brain plasticity
Language is a prominent ability common in human beings. It involves the application of complex neural components which involve both sensory motor systems as well as memory systems. It common to to finds that individuals loose the ability to use language after suffering from the debilitating effects of a stroke. It is also common to find that people who have indulge in drug abuse over long periods of time have tendencies to have slurred speech. As such these are all aspects of brain injury. There are instances where plasticity occurs such that brain damage to areas dedicates to speech are transfer those processes to other parts of th brain such that an affected individual can realize normal language and speech over time.
Sensory motor systems and brain plasticity
reflexes are considered as the most significant and simplest of a human beings movement. The are essentially fixed and automated muscular responses to specific stimuli. It is important to comprehend that even the most simple reflex has to involve coordinated neural activity which involve the controlled regulation of agonist as well as antagonist muscles. The motor cortex is charges with coordinating reflexes such that damage to this area could to disability. However, through physiotherapy, brain plasticity is evoked and individuals can be seen to slowly return to normal use of reflexes and other sensory motor skills.
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