by Lupita De Grandis
Neuroplasticity is a change in the nervous system’s function and structure. Is the ability of the brain to adapt, make changes and work in a different way by connecting or creating new routes to neurons.
When we talk about Neuroplasticity, we also talk about certain elements like our knowledge, memories, desires, values, and feelings. These elements have a great influence in the neuroplasticity process. Neuroplasticity allows us to modify behaviors and make changes by increasing what is useful and decreasing what is not. A new communication connection in the synapse (space between neurons) is formed or reinforced in our brains every time we practice or learn something new.
In the past, it was believed that the connections and brain cells that were formed during the development of a person were completely fixed or unchanged. Another belief was that we were born with a certain number of neurons, which were thought to be lost as we would grow old. They also assumed that inherited genes would condition intelligence.
Today neuroscientists and researchers show and support that the consistency of these neural connections and how they vary according to their use or misuse (known as Synaptic plasticity) modify learning and memory. Therefore the brain changes continuously throughout our lives by rewiring itself.
Thanks to the Neuroscience and the modern technology MRI, it is known that neuroplasticity exists. Our brain is extraordinarily plastic being modified by our life experiences that straighten or weaken the neuronal connections. It also shows that we are able to generate new neurons so that learning can happen at any age. This is for all living organisms with a nervous system not only for humans.
In spite of this flexibility, the brain presents resistance to change even if that change is for the better. At the beginning, the brain perceives the change as a threat because it is not recognized as part of its network. This explains why people feel resistant towards learning new things or to be open to changes in their lives or work.
This area is becoming of great interest for us educators when we consider its impact specially on our learners or future leaders. Neuroplasticity helps people to recover from an injury, a stroke, or cognitive deterioration such as Parkinson or Alzheimer, cerebral palsy, autism, ADD, ADHD and other learning disabilities.
An understanding of Neuroplasticity can help us go beyond our own limits by having the flexibility to modify our way of feeling, thinking and acting. Neuroplasticity offers hope for all and a new horizon that might even continue to be expanded in the future.