For some time, it was believed that our brain did not change after the individual became an adult, that it was an immutable formula, and that neural lesions would be permanent.
However, recent studies prove the opposite : no matter how severe the brain injury, the nervous system shows how our brain can be adaptable to changes!
Our brain can be understood as a series of paths and passages that our synapses take along the neuron, and it is used to making a certain path all the time. However, the human being is prone to changes throughout life, starting from the environment in which he is inserted.
To better understand, we can compare the brain with other parts of the body. We exercise our body in order to be in good physical condition. With the brain, the same thing happens: we can train our brain to think, act and reflect on what we want. Read this article to the end and learn how!
- 1 What is neuroplasticity?
- 2 How the Nervous System Works
- 3 How we use our brain
- 4 Myths and truths about brain use
- 5 Types of Neuroplasticity
- 6 Neuroplasticity and its use in the clinic
- 7 Early stimulation
- 8 When does neuroplasticity come into play?
- 9 What are neural injuries?
- 10 Can brain problems be cured?
- 11 How does Neuroplasticity occur?
- 12 Neuroplasticity and learning
- 13 How to eliminate bad habits
- 14 The 10 fundamentals of neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity, also known as neuronal plasticity or cerebral malleability, is the ability to change and reorganize neurons according to environmental, experimental, social, physical changes and more serious injuries.
The continuous process of brain change, “reorganization” of the neural circuits, and the reception of new attitudes or thoughts, is what is called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity does not only occur in people with severe neurological injuries, this process occurs all the time, in all people around the world! It is an involuntary process of our body and very beneficial for our day to day.
In order to exemplify, we can take into account an experiment carried out by the scientist Pascual-Leone. The experiment consisted of selling adults with healthy eyesight for five days. During that time, blindfolded people lived and acted like blind people, reading braille and performing auditory discrimination activities.
After performing an MRI, it was observed, by the scientist, that the visual cortex began to be activated by hearing and touch. The brain was adapting!
The result proves that even after adults, our brain can adapt to changes (drastic or not) and reorganize itself based on our greatest needs.
To understand how neuroplasticity occurs, it is necessary to analyze how the nervous system works and its respective parts.
The nervous system is composed of two sets: the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (SNP).
Central Nervous System (CNS)
The CNS is made up of the brain and the spinal cord, being made up of millions of neurons.
They are the main cells of the nervous system, which are responsible for the transmission of nerve stimuli or synapses. It is believed that an adult may have about 86 billion neurons in his brain. Neurons are the only cells in the human body that do not multiply, but undergo changes in order to supply needs.
It is the means of communication between neurons. Synapses are the transmission of nerve impulses between one neuron and another. Every time we learn something new, feel something never felt before, or even gain new knowledge about the world or ourselves, the synapses between neurons are strengthened.
Peripheral Nervous System (SNP)
The SNP is made up of the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord, being the way that the CNS comes into contact with the whole body.
It is through the SNP that the CNS can respond to various stimuli, such as: the moment your hand touches something very hot, the SNP takes the information (through synapses in neurons) to the CNS, which will act by removing quickly take your hand from the site. This is a process that occurs in milliseconds.
Each part of our brain is responsible for different biological functions, such as seeing, feeling, breathing, listening, reasoning and moving. In case of damage in any of these areas, the brain changes (where neuroplasticity comes in) to try to recover and supply the need.
For example, when we watch TV, our brain needs to coordinate vision, hearing, touch and still process all the information you receive when watching.
Many people believe in some myths or truths about the use of the brain, which are created by common sense. Let’s check out some of them below:
Can I be more right than left?
Research says that our brain is divided into two hemispheres: the right and the left. The law is responsible for the person’s creative part, intuition and emotion. The left side is responsible for logical-mathematical reasoning.
There are several tests on the internet to see which side of your brain is used the most. However, it is impossible to use only one side of the brain ! We use it in its entirety to do math, paint a drawing, or run.
We can see the example of neuroscientist Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, from the University of Southern California, who accompanied two young men who suffered serious injuries to their brains. An Argentine teenager named Rico and an American named Brooke (fictitious names) lost half their brains.
Rico had to remove his right side to contain his epilepsy and Brooke lost his left side due to an autoimmune disease. After their respective surgeries, the two managed to recover all of their initial capabilities.
Young people walk, talk, think and even do math math perfectly. Neuroplasticity caused the part that was not removed to take care of the missing part, compensating for its loss and taking on new responsibilities. Over time, the axons – the tail that connects one neuron to the other – stretch to meet the need for a damaged neuron.
Do we use only 10% of the brain?
Many people believe that we use only 10% of our brain, implying that the other part is inactive. Science has already proven: it is a myth . We use our whole brain, almost every moment.
According to common sense, the 90% of the brain that is turned off would be responsible for supernatural powers, such as moving small objects with the power of the mind, winning over the loved one more easily or even figuring out how to earn a lot of money. Craziness!
Our brain is always active, at all times. Even in activities that seem idle and meaningless, such as sleeping, watching TV or showering, the brain is always working. In fact, to perform such activities, we even use different parts of our brain!
Does sleeping make me more beautiful?
How many times have we heard people say they need their “beauty sleep”? Know that there is a bottom of truth in this story! Sleeping makes the most beautiful people, but sleeping all day will not work.
Research says that when we sleep, our brain organizes the information we receive throughout the day. It is at this point that the cells responsible for the production of myelin double their production, thus making repairing damage to the brain easier.
When referring to beauty, there are several issues involved, such as having a healthy diet, exercising and, of course, having a good night’s sleep!
When we do not sleep well, our body releases hormones linked to stress and we become more irritated, which causes pallor and increased skin creases, also increasing dark circles. All of this makes us look dejected and tired.
Therefore, it is necessary to maintain a routine of sleep, food and physical activities to remain beautiful.
There are 5 types of neuroplasticity: axonic, dendritic, somatic, synaptic and regenerative. Let’s understand each one of them:
This is the initial (and most fundamental) plasticity of brain development. Occurs between 0 and 2 years of age.
Within the axonic plasticity, there is the critical period, which consists of the moment when there is more action of neuroplasticity in the central nervous system. It occurs in children, as it is the stage where there are more discoveries about life, the environment and your own body.
Characterized by changes in the size, length, disposition and density of dendritic spines, dendritic plasticity occurs mainly in the early stages of development. Dendritic spines are the “little threads” that make the connection and transmission of information between neurons.
The axon is the tail of the neuron and the dendrites are the “branches” that are both on the head of the neuron and at the end of the axon. They are the ones who receive and release the neurotransmitters, which make the real communication between the neurons, while the rest of the neuron passes the message electrically.
It refers to the ability to regulate the proliferation and death of nerve cells. This is a capacity present only in the nervous system of the embryo, and is not influenced by the external environment.
It is equivalent to the capacity of synapses to strengthen or weaken, in response to external and internal stimuli.
It is the regeneration of affected axons. It has greater action on the peripheral nervous system, which is responsible for connecting the central nervous system with other parts of the human body.
The function of neuroplasticity can be used in some areas of health, such as physiotherapy and psychology.
In these areas, some exercises are done to stimulate motor functions and prevent future loss of cognition due to an injury, causing neuronal functions to change and adapt. It can also be used to induce, help or even change certain habits that are considered bad.
These exercises stimulate synapses and promote the growth of axons, thus increasing the plasticity of the brain. This type of exercise should be started right after the injury (if it occurs), when the patient is already stable, with more passive activities and, gradually, increasing in intensity.
In cases without neural injuries, such as the need for changes in attitudes, it is possible to deal with psychologists who can help with the rehabilitation of the brain to carry out the proposed change.
Many people subordinate the unhealthy capacity to depression – yes, it is a disease. When a person is in a depressive state, their synapses are used to negative thoughts and feelings and changing that is laborious.
It is not just based on “increasing self-esteem ” or “thinking positive”, the condition needs to be treated with a qualified professional and, in some cases, with medication. It is a process that takes time, but with the right help and continuity of treatment, change can occur.
In these cases, the continuity of treatment is of fundamental importance, because the more trained your brain is, the more fixed this action can become. So it is important to visit your psychologist or physiotherapist every week!
With the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil, the births of children with microcephaly increased dramatically.
Microcephaly is a disease in which the child is born with a reduced brain size, which impairs its development. Babies with this disease can still be diagnosed during pregnancy.
As soon as the child is born, it is necessary to have a stimulation in its neuroplasticity, so that future sequelae can be avoided.
Another relationship can occur between neuroplasticity and autism , which, when diagnosed early, can result in a significant improvement in the child’s behavior if the right stimuli are applied, as neuroplasticity is more active in early childhood.
Because it is a capacity for change in the brain, and not a disease, it occurs daily and cannot be avoided. However, neuroplasticity occurs more in people who have suffered some neural injury and who need more changes.
Some conditions that stimulate neuroplasticity can be:
- Perforation of the brain;
- Great trauma;
- Personality changes;
- Changes in feelings;
- Behavior changes;
- New learning;
- Learn to read or write;
- Learn to play a musical instrument;
- Learn a new language;
- Job change;
- Rehabilitation of addictions and addictions.
Everything listed above makes our brain work, activating neuroplasticity. And there are many other stimuli that man did not even have the ability to list.
Neural, neurological or brain injuries are one of the most serious injuries that can occur throughout life, as they have very serious sequelae that can leave the human being in a vegetative state.
A neural injury is the complete or partial destruction of brain cells. They can occur due to a series of diseases and traumas, the most common of which are: traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke (stroke) and even perforation of the brain mass.
Neural injuries can be treated with medication, physiotherapy or surgery.
It is not possible to say that brain injuries and problems can be cured, but a change can occur.
Certain psychiatric disorders, such as autism and attention deficit, can be reduced based on brain exercises, but not cured.
Less serious attitudes, such as cigarette addiction, can be reversed with medicines and electronic cigarettes, but they can still leave sequelae. To better understand how this occurs, access the text on smoking !
Simple daily attitudes can be reversed with daily stimuli.
There is no scientific theory that proves the exact functioning of neuroplasticity. There are still several neurosurgeons who study the human brain thoroughly in order to answer that question. However, we can consider that neuroplasticity can occur by:
It is a new growth of the injured area by means of axons, as if the axons are stretched to reach other neurons but distant.
Activation of latent synapses
There are some synapses that are inactive in our brain and, after an injury, they “wake up” and become active, thus supplying the need.
Tips to induce your plasticity (train your brain!)
- Put your brain to work: think about everything you want to change and start! No laziness.
- Take care of your well-being: well-being is not only related to food and exercise. Stay in places with the least amount of stress, as this damages your well-being.
- Change your routes: taking another route to work or college makes your brain think of different routes, and this expands your geographic knowledge.
- Exercise both sides of the brain: try to do activities with your right hand that you usually do with your left hand.
- Try bathing with your eyes closed: close your eyes when showering, let your other senses take over the task.
- Meditate: Meditating brings tranquility to the body and mind. Find out more below.
- Listen to music: it has been proven that listening to music is very relaxing and activates memory.
- Eat healthy: we are what we eat. Our body needs nutrients to be able to live. So eat well to keep nutrients well balanced!
Many people do not believe in meditation simply because it does not seem to be meaningful, but it is possible to prove several benefits that meditation brings to your brain.
Some of the benefits are: it helps to prevent brain aging, improves concentration, focus and attention, reduces anxiety and stress, boosts health and well-being, helps to overcome bad habits, remove addictions and prevent heart disease, improves learning and, on top of that, it can even increase the gray matter of our brain!
Step by step meditation:
- Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and without distractions. Removing electronics from the site can help;
- Adjust the temperature, lighting and noise before starting to meditate. If you prefer you can even light an incense or perfume the place;
- Do not meditate on a full stomach, if you start with this practice after large meals it is almost certain that you will fall asleep before you even turn off the light;
- Prepare a comfortable place to lie down or sit down. Pillows and blankets help. Meditating sitting with your legs crossed and your spine upright is not the only way to do it: the moment is yours, leave it with your face;
- Avoid tight or uncomfortable clothes, the good old sweatshirt can be your main ally;
- Relax your muscles, loosen your arms and legs and relax your face;
- Do not think about tasks that need to be done later, this time is for relaxing and not stressing;
- Practice breathing, breathing deeply helps to properly oxygenate the brain and to think more clearly;
- Make your goals clear with meditation, but if not, don’t worry. Many good things can go beyond what was planned with the exercise;
- Open your eyes slowly. After completing the exercise, do not rush to do your chores again.
- There are several videos and audios that serve to guide meditation, but remember that the time is yours and you can change as much as you like, silence can help a lot for some people, for others a song or noise can do you good;
- If you notice that you start to wander, don’t worry, just go back to the exercise as many times as necessary, this is how your brain learns to relax and complete the exercise;
- Any time of meditation a day is already beneficial, but the more you meditate, the more peaceful and enjoyable your time will be. Meditating for 5 minutes a day is better than not meditating, but meditating for more than 1 hour can make you lose focus on meditation. Try to meditate for 30 minutes or, if you notice you need more, try to meditate for 50 minutes. The important thing is to know how long it will be beneficial for you;
- Eye blindfolds can be very useful for people who cannot keep their eyes closed;
- It is possible to choose an external location. A good park, with trees and grass, can help.
- Often, the act of meditation is based on observing the breath, as it is not possible to “stop thinking”, just think of something that does not bring you stress or make you sad. In this sense, breathing helps to occupy the mind;
- Writing down what comes to mind after meditation can help you get to know yourself better.
Meditation is a powerful practice of self-knowledge and self-healing, look for a professional who can help you practice meditation correctly and efficiently.
Think of your brain as a tangle of paths. He is used to taking a certain path every time you take an action, but despite the difficulty, it is possible to change that path.
Changing habits can be difficult and complicated, as there is already a path that synapses take through the established neuron, and changing seems laborious and tiring.
However, there are ways to change habits that are considered unpleasant. Check out:
- Start by identifying those habits that you think are bad. Admitting that you have a bad habit is the first step in resolving it.
- Stop doing this activity. If she is easy to be excluded from her life, the better. However, if you experience difficulty, put another activity in place that will make you forget about the bad habit.
- Resist the act of performing the activity again, no matter how accustomed our brain is. It takes time to be able to change paths.
- Centralize your energy in one act at a time. Making many changes can be tiring for your brain. Doing one at a time, he will get used to one and then start the next change.
- Replace one pleasurable act with another. By compensating your brain, it will better accept the change you want to make.
- Do not overload your brain. Plan to be able to make all the changes you want in a given time.
- Remember that it is very easy to turn habits that are considered good into bad, stay tuned to what you really want.
- Be happy above all! The changes come with time.
In his book, Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life, Dr. Michael Merzenich raises 10 fundamentals of neuroplasticity. Let’s meet them:
- To make a change it is necessary that your brain is in a “good mood”: Try to be always active, your brain needs to be motivated, controlled and ready for action;
- The more you try, the more you are motivated and alert, and the better (or worse) the result, the greater your brain changes: Both for the worse and for the better, the more focused your brain is, the further you will get . Willpower is needed;
- What really changes in the brain is the strength of the connections between neurons together: The more you practice the action, the stronger the synapses will become. Regularity is essential;
- Learning-focused changes improve cooperation between cells, which is crucial to avoid relapses: Your cells have to work together, because the more cells involved, the stronger the possibility of change, preventing relapses to old habits.
- The brain strengthens the connections between the sets of neurons that represent separate moments of successive activities: This means that the brain is able to create an associative “chain”, instead of processing things separate from each other. Without this, our activities and memories would be like standing puddles instead of a flowing river .;
- Initial changes are temporary: To make a change permanent, your brain needs to judge whether that action actually gives you any advantage, then make the change permanent. If you really want something: persevere!
- The brain is altered by the mental rehearsal in exactly the same way and involving the same processes that control the changes achieved through interaction with the internal world: The brain confuses reality with what is imagined, so it activates synapses with the simple act of imagine the action. So it is not always necessary to carry out the action, but to imagine it.
- Memory guides and controls learning: Our brain keeps in memory its attempts with good results and discards not so good ones, and progressively improves.
- Each learning process provides the brain with an opportunity to stabilize and reduce irrelevant attitudes, replacing bad attitudes with good ones: When changing a habit, new paths are created, and old ones are erased. This change erases acts considered irrelevant.
- Cerebral plasticity is a two-way street; it is easy to generate both negative and positive changes: Be aware of what you really want, negative changes can be developed with the same skill as positive ones.
Don’t worry, you are not stuck in the brain that you were born with. Excuses like “I am like that” or “I was born like this” can no longer be used.
After figuring out how to regulate your brain, send it to someone you think will like the text!