The brain is the most powerful organ that humans possess — a reality that we often take for granted. As we move throughout our days, we are so used to our brain functioning smoothly that we don’t take a lot of time to think about what is going on underneath. Walking, eating, discussing our ideas, all of these things seem very natural and easy, but in truth, each and every one of our actions is done through a series of functions that the brain performs. In essence, the human brain is the command center for the human nervous system, receiving signals from the body’s sensory organs and outputting information to all our muscles.
One important and adjacent facet of the brain is neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity. Charles Popov, CEO and founder of Resiliency BHS and Geographia, outlines how our brain has a natural ability to adapt to situations through plasticity.
What is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to modify its connections or “rewire” itself. Without this ability, brains would be unable to develop from infancy through to adulthood or recover from brain injury. Neuroplasticity includes several different processes that take place throughout a lifetime.
Moreover, neuroplasticity does not consist of a single type of change, says Charles Joseph Popov; in fact, several different processes occur in endless patterns, in tandem with the co-mingling of many types of brain cell in order for neuroplasticity to occur throughout an individual’s lifetime.
Of course, neuroplasticity is an extension of organic matter and can therefore deteriorate. As the brain grows, individual neurons mature, first by sending out multiple signals through the cellular elements that transmit and receive information and then by increasing the number of synaptic contacts with specific connections, fundamentally, the process by which we associate material and learn. However, by adulthood, the average number of synapses within the human brain halves, i.e. so-called, synaptic pruning.
We continue to have the ability to learn new activities, skills, or languages even into old age.
By the same mechanism, an enriched and stimulating environment offered to a damaged brain will eventually lead to recovery. The brain is a resistant organism but, at the same time, there are techniques that counsellors like Charles Popov recommend, which help us make sense of what our body is capable of and further our competencies. While the brain undergoes change, with or without your consent, one still has the control to set the direction for these changes.
One tidbit that Charles Popov surmises will ameliorate a brain’s plasticity and ability to adapt is a good night’s sleep, as a brain needs sleep to reset its connections that are important for memory and learning. Just one night of losing sleep impedes the brain’s ability to reset itself, and therefore impairs memory, readiness and malleability. A few other guidelines to follow to improve neuroplasticity include: learning new skills like language, engaging in creative activities, exercise (which boosts the oxygen supply to the brain and increases brain volume) and finally, avoiding stress.
Final Thoughts from Charles Joseph Popov
Brain plasticity is a physical process, which means that it is in constant flux. Gray matter can shrink or thicken; neural connections can be forged and refined, or weakened and severed. These changes in the physical brain are then able to manifest as changes in our abilities.
Nevertheless, we have the capacity to impact our bodies by developing new synaptic connections. When you feel out of control, remember, we are able to make our brain work for us purely by supporting its natural processes of plasticity, says Charles Popov.