Not so long ago many scientists believed that the brain didn’t change after childhood – that it was hard-wired and fixed by the time we became adults – but recent advances in only the last decade now tell us that this is not true. The brain can and does change throughout our lives. It is adaptable, like plastic – hence the term “neuroplasticity.”
Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses which are due to changes in behavior, environment and neural processes, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury. Learn more about neuroplasticity in this short video.
Scientists have shown that working as a piano tuner may lead to changes in the structure of the memory and navigation areas of the brain. The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, shows that these structural differences correlate with the number of years of experience a piano tuner has accumulated.
An unusual kind of circuit fine-tunes the brain’s control over movement and incoming sensory information, and without relying on conventional nerve pathways, according to a study published in the journal Neuron.
The reason we struggle to recall memories from our early childhood is down to high levels of neuron production during the first years of life, say Canadian researchers.
Researchers have identified mutations in several new genes that might be associated with the development of spontaneously occurring cases of the neurodegenerative disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the progressive, fatal condition, in which the motor neurons that control movement and breathing gradually cease to function, has no cure.
The brains of people with depression show a reduced ability to adapt to their environment, a unique study shows.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found that a naturally occurring protein secreted only in discrete areas of the mammalian brain may act as a Valium-like brake on certain types of epileptic seizures.
photo credit: Chandra Marsono via photopin cc
Laughter with friends releases the brain's "feel-good" chemicals, and helps reduce pain
Laughing with friends releases feel-good brain chemicals, which also relieve pain, new research indicates.
Millions of tinnitus sufferers could get relief thanks to a new treatment which stops the brain creating “phantom” noises by playing matching tones over headphones
Earlier evidence out of UCLA suggested that meditating for years thickens the brain (in a good way) and strengthens the connections between brain cells. Now a further report by UCLA researchers suggests yet another benefit. have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (“folding” of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes.
Brain scans of Nasa astronauts who have returned to earth after more than a month in space have revealed potentially serious abnormalities that could jeopardise long-term space missions.
For decades, scientists thought that the adult human brain was static and unchanging. But in the last few decades, we have learned that the adult brain is more dynamic than we ever imagined!
This short film was created for the Society for Neuroscience 2011 Brain Awareness Video Contest.
Is the internet changing the way we think?
In this week’s round-up of the latest discoveries in the field of neuroscience – the evolutionary nature of the brain, how blind people see with their ears, the neuroscience of humour, and how the internet is changing the way we think.
Interesting post on the evolutionary nature of the brain here
Scientists say they have discovered a “maintenance” protein that helps keep nerve fibres that transmit messages in the brain operating smoothly. The University of Edinburgh team says the finding could improve understanding of disorders such as epilepsy, dementia, MS and stroke.
Neuropsychologist, Dr. Olivier Collignon has proved that some blind people can “see” with their ears. He compared the brain activity of people who can see and people who were born blind, and discovered that the part of the brain that normally works with our eyes to process vision and space perception can actually rewire itself to process sound information instead.
A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that we have much more control over our minds, personalities and personal illnesses than was ever believed to exist before, and it is all occurring at the same time that a flood of other research is exposing the benefits of humor on brain functioning. Nichole Force has written a post in Psych Central on Humor, Neuroplasticity and the Power To Change Your Mind.
And finally, is the internet changing the way we think? American writer Nicholas Carr believes so and his claims that the internet is not only shaping our lives but physically altering our brains has sparked a debate in the Guardian.
Interesting talk by Richard J Davidson from the University of Wisconsin – Madison on neuroplasticity and personal transformation.
Google Tech Talks
September 16, 2008
The ability to recognize and work with different emotions is fundamental to psychological flexibility and well-being. Neuroscience has contributed to the understanding of the neural bases of emotion, emotion regulation, and emotional intelligence, and has begun to elucidate the brain mechanisms involved in emotion processing. Of great interest is the degree to which these mechanisms demonstrate neuroplasticity in both anatomical and functional levels of the brain.
Speaker: Dr. Phillippe Goldin
I am interested in ongoing research focusing on the effects of music training on the nervous system, and have given some talks on the subject over the past few years. It is also very interesting to note from recent studies that music training has implications for neuroeducation.
Research from Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory strongly suggests that an active engagement with musical sounds not only enhances neuroplasticity, but also enables the nervous system to provide the stable scaffolding of meaningful patterns so important to learning.
According to Northwestern’s Professor Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory “The brain is unable to process all of the available sensory information from second to second, and thus must selectively enhance what is relevant,” Kraus said. Playing an instrument primes the brain to choose what is relevant in a complex process that may involve reading or remembering a score, timing issues and coordination with other musicians.”
Again, I am most interested to note that in Northwestern’s research shows that children who are musically trained have a better vocabulary and reading ability than children who did not receive music training.
Furthermore Professor Kraus says that “Music training seems to strengthen the same neural processes that often are deficient in individuals with developmental dyslexia or who have difficulty hearing speech in noise.”
Professor Kraus argues for proper investment of resources in music training in schools: “The effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for auditory fitness and thus requires society to re-examine the role of music in shaping individual development. ”
“Music training for the development of auditory skills,” by Nina Kraus and Bharath Chandrasekaran, will be published July 20 in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience.