30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011
Growth & Change
Plastic means flexible. Neuroplasticity is the collection of ways in which the brain changes in response to what we do and experience. If you believe the mind is the activity of the brain, then every change in your mind must, logically, entail changes in your brain. Considered this way, evidence of neuroplasticity should be expected. What really surprises neuroscientists is the extent to which the brain can change in response to injuries or new challenges. Supposedly ’visual’ areas of the brain are recruited by the sense of touch in the blind, or — as demonstrated by Alvaro Pascual-Leone — even in sighted people who live with a blindfold on for five days. This reorganization according to a person’s activities (such as seeing or touching) seems to be a general principle of brain development. This principle operates throughout the lifetime, not just in childhood. So, to take a famous example, a part of the brain involved in navigation has been shown to be larger in London cab drivers, who spend their adult lives finding their way around the city. The concept of neuroplasticity is tied to the idea that we can change how we think, and our abilities, throughout our lifetime and that keeping mentally active can help us to remain flexible and alert in older age.
What you do and think can change the structure of your brain.
One reason neuroplasticity is currently much discussed is that it contradicts the idea that the mind is a static, computer-like, information-processing machine. Another might be that people find it surprising because, even though it is orthodoxy that the mind is based on the brain, we still don’t, in our hearts, believe that all our thoughts and feelings are due to a lump of meat between our ears.
Brains can be flexible — research into blind people has shown that their other senses often commandeer the redundant visual parts of their brains.