Neuroplasticity or “brain plasticity” refers to the brain’s ability to change or adapt both physically and functionally throughout life by stimulation from your environment, behavior, thinking, emotions etc. As a little baby when you learn to roll over, sit up, walk, run, or play you stimulate your brain to help you grow and learn new things. The more you do it, the better you become. This is because when neurons (nerve cells that transmit information) are stimulated they create more branches to each other so they can communicate more efficiently. The more developed your neuronal communication network becomes the more function you have. The brain forms neuro pathways as you grow and learn to do new things in school, play sports, drive a car or get a job. It may be difficult at first to know how to throw the ball, push the brake pedal or do your times tables. However, the more you do this the stronger those connections become and as time goes on you can become very proficient in that thing. It becomes easier to understand the game, drive home, or memorize equations.
Though the brain is not a muscle it behaves like one. When it is stimulated, it changes. Stimulation “exercises” our neurons and is necessary to keep them healthy and active. When neurons are stimulated they synapse or “clasp together” to communicate. Stimulation sets off a series of chemical and electrical impulses via synapses to reach various areas of the brain. Neurons also need oxygen and glucose in order to perform properly.
When you go to the gym and workout, your muscles begin to change. If you went to the gym and wanted to get in-shape or “ripped” but didn’t have the function of your arms (couldn’t move them), or chose not to, you wouldn’t be able to grow the muscle the way you want. Similarly, if your brain does not function correctly or you don’t stimulate it, you may not be able to behave, think, move, and feel the way you want.
This article was written by our colleagues in Utah and originally appeared on their website on April 15, 2017.