The Amazing Capacity of Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity! What is it? Is it related to Tupperware? or maybe a new eating utensil at a picnic? No. Not even close. It is what makes the human brain the most incredible organ in the universe. Neuroplasticity is the amazing capacity of the brain to re-program and actually re-wire itself!
So what does that really mean? Let’s break the word down into its two parts. The first is “neuro” which from the Greek means nerve, sinew, tendon and the second part, plasticity from the Greek word “plassein” which means “to mold”. Hence, malleable, flexible, adaptable, or moldable are all good concepts to have about the words “plastic or plasticity”. So the word Neuroplasticity means nerve cells have the characteristics of being moldable or adaptable. That is certainly an accurate description of what a neuron or brain cell can do.
So is it really all that special that a brain cell is adaptable? Well let’s think about it. What can a skin or liver cell do? They are both very large organs. And they do some pretty fantastic things. The skin is a remarkable covering of the body that acts as a protective barrier and is a means of regulating body temperature, manufactures vitamin D, and can regenerate itself for a hundred years. Yeah, but can it do something else like switch from processing one complex modality like vision to being more invested in what we hear? Well how about the liver? I’ve heard it does a lot of detoxification and other thing related to glycogen storage and building blood clotting proteins. It has to be awfully smart to do that doesn’t it? Yes, that is true, but once a stem cell differentiates into a liver cell it can only do its assigned job and that alone. It can only be a good little liver cell and never embellish its function in any way.
This is not the case for a brain cell that can go from a cell in our brain that helps us to toddle around to Twinkle, twinkle little star as a 14 month old to dancing with the Bolshoi Ballet company. This means a neuron may go from a few thousand functional connections to many tens of thousands of functional connections to process sight, sound and movement. While that is pretty exciting that a healthy brain can expand and refine itself to that degree, that is really nothing when you hear of other things that the brain can do. There are multiple cases where a young child with tumors or severe seizure disorders had a hemispherectomy (a procedure where one half of the cerebral cortex is removed) and the child made a recovery so that the most notable issue after a time of recovery is the scar on their scalp! 1
What does this mean for you? It means if there’s an issue with your brain, it CAN change for the better. Contact us to find out how we can harness your neuroplasticity to get you feeling and working better.
- Smith, A and Sugar O. Development of above normal language and intelligence 21 years after left hemispherectomy.  Neurology, 1975 September; 25(9):813-8