Plastic is a substance capable of being molded. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus-2012) This definition as it refers to our human brains includes the consistent reprocessing and re-pattering of events when one’s brain can create new neural pathways and thereby follow new responses to old triggers (The Guardian – July23, 2015).
When our brains change, our abilities change. Dr. Micheal Merzenich and Dr. Norman Doidge of Brain HQ, condenses this information into a simple statement – “the brain can change itself.” Through their research, both doctors have determined that the gray matter in our brains can shrink or thicken; neural connections can be forged, refined weakened and severed.
CNN.com (May 5,2011) reported this amazing issues when they related the story of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords. She had been shot in the head by a bullet during a political campaign. She made remarkable progress by forming new brain cells called neurons. The feat was accomplished by repeated rehabilitation to relearn basic tasks. A traumatic brain injury patient may be able to form new brain connections that allow him or her to talk and walk again.
Although part of the brain may be damaged, functions of the missing parts are taken over by reconnection pathways to other, healthy functioning neuros. This forms new circuits to resume the lost function. Albeit, this process may be slow, it is possible to regain the original ability.
Research also shows that the opposite of plasticity is true. If an available brain function isn’t used, it may shrivel and disappear. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent relates that when it comes to basic functions it truly is a “use it or lose it” idea. That’s why rehabilitation to relearn how to walk and speak is so important. Dr. Gupta says, “the more you improve in the early time period, the more you’ll improve in the long run.” Since our brain is plastic, we should make it our best friend and nudge our neurons into functioning circuits that help improve us every day.