Neuroplasticity: the incredible, flexible brain:
The brain has the innate ability to physically change itself when faced with new, challenging experiences. This ability is called neuroplasticity.
Our brain’s billions of neurons—its cellular building blocks—interact with each other in complex ways. Signals travel from one neuron to another down intricate neural pathways whose structures determine your thoughts, impulses, emotions, insights, and more.
As our brains develop throughout childhood, these neural pathways change: less-used pathways are pruned away while pathways that you use regularly grow stronger. Each task relies on a different neural pathway.
Neuroplasticity is our brain’s ability to create new neural pathways and reshape existing ones—even as an adult. Our brain makes these small changes naturally throughout your lifetime. But when neuroplasticity’s potential is thoughtfully and methodically explored, this physical reorganization can make your brain faster and more efficient at performing all manner of tasks—no matter how large or small they may be.
A rich body of neuroplasticity research:
The principle of neuroplasticity suggests that anyone can improve their brain, no matter what their age or background. A growing body of research adds more credence to this concept every day.
Recently, a study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development provided working memory training for both 101 younger adults (in their 20s) and 103 older adults (60-80). As a group, these participants not only improved on a variety of memory tasks after training—they also showed improvements in other areas of cognition, including reasoning abilities (Schmiedek, et al., 2010).
A study of over 2,000 elderly adults in 2002 suggests that even older brains have plenty of room to improve and learn. (Ball, et al., 2002). After 10 sessions of speed of processing training over the course of six weeks,
87% of elderly participants who trained this ability gained skills that transferred to real-world abilities: they self-reported experiencing less decline in their ability to perform basic daily activities.
And Stanford and San Francisco State University researchers published a groundbreaking study showing that healthy adults benefit from web-based cognitive training (Hardy et al., 2011). On average, the 13 participants in this peer-reviewed controlled trial saw 20% improvements in visual attention and 10% improvements in working memory.
The body of evidence for neuroplasticity and brain training is constantly growing.
How to harness our brain’s abilities:
Not every experience can rewire our brain for the better: in order to fully harness the power of neuroplasticity, we need to challenge our brain with training that is novel, adaptive, and complete.
This complex formula explains why some popular games such as Sudoku and crosswords don’t increase intelligence—the more you play these games, the more you retrace overlearned pathways in your brain. Carefully calibrated challenges are needed to really strengthen our brain.
Novelty forces our brain to change:
Novel challenges present unexpected obstacles, forcing your brain to work in new ways. When faced with new challenges, your brain can no longer fall back upon old habits—it must remodel its existing circuitry and build new pathways for information processing.
That’s because the brain assigns special neural pathways for each type of task. Just as you use different muscle groups for running and swimming, so you use different neural circuitry for reading and watching movies. Familiar tasks simply reactivate existing circuitry—which can keep your brain active, but won’t fundamentally change or improve it.
Adaptivity keeps your brain challenged:
We all have a unique set of cognitive strengths and weaknesses. A task that’s easy for someone else may be a challenge to you, and vice versa.
In order to improve, we need tasks appropriate for our brain’s ever-changing ability levels. As our brain becomes stronger, it’s able to handle tougher challenges. This response to challenges is a key part of neural growth; we need challenges that adapt quickly enough to push us.
That’s where cognitive training is truly breaking ground. Cutting-edge technology makes it possible for our brains to adapt on a moment-by-moment basis.
Our brain is a complex machine, and multiple parts of it must work together to accomplish even the simplest task. That’s why it’s important to get a complete program that exercises multiple core brain functions.
Imagine watching an action movie. You need to process information quickly to understand how the plot evolves. You need to pay careful attention or you’ll miss key details and dialogue. You need to store and manipulate information in your working memory throughout the movie to understand how everything ties together.
Even such an everyday task requires a sophisticated choreography of neural activity.
Cognitive Intervention / Rewiring Programmes have the potential to change lives:
Neuroplasticity can have wide-ranging applications if properly explored. Researchers have used brain training to rehabilitate patients with brain trauma, chemofog, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and more.
But healthy people have also used brain training to sharpen their daily lives and keep their brains active. We can harness the power of neuroplasticity to remember more, think faster, and achieve your full potential in every aspect. The benefits may well be endless.