Monday, June 27, 2016

Plasticity and Brain Injuries Part One

Plasticity and Brain Injuries Part One
Plasticity is the brain's ability to change and adapt as a result of experience and behavior. As we grow the brain continues to develop new neural pathways and prune old pathways away depending on how it needs to adapt to new experiences. Plasticity mainly occurs for the following two reasons; in reaction to learning something new or when there is damage to the brain. There are many things that affect plasticity causing different results coming from how the brain may react to it. Plasticity is the primary neurological function in which the brain can modify the nervous system based on different behavioral changes and events. Because of the brain’s amazing ability to continuously build and expand neural pathways, the brain has the ability to rebuild itself after a traumatic injury that causes cell loss. The brain even has the ability to take over for another part of the brain that is not functioning correctly. This is something that is very important for researchers and doctors to understand so that someone can be properly rehabilitated after suffering a debilitating brain injury.  
What is Plasticity
The brain has the ability to change its structure and function according to the experiences a person goes through. Brain plasticity is associated with the functional changes that include memory, addiction, and recovery of function. Research shows that brain plasticity and behavior can be influenced by a couple of factors, including both pre- and postnatal experience, drugs, hormones, maturation, aging, diet, disease, and stress2. Experience or the absence of an experience may cause the brain to make changes to its neural pathways. A stimulus caused by an experience travels from one neuron to another down a series of neural pathways to be processed. When a stimulus is repeated numerous times it creates its own neural pathway to learn and process the stimulus quicker and more efficiently. In order to learn a skill, there has to be constant changes occurring in the brain that represent new knowledge. Significant plasticity may occur in three conditions: 1) during normal brain development when the immature brain first begins to process sensory information through adulthood, 2) in events of learning, 3) in case of a brain injury: to compensate for lost functions or maximize remaining functions1. In the next blog I will discuss the relationship between plasticity, traumatic brain injuries, and recovery.


Gabbard, C. (2012). Lifelong motor development. (6th ed., pp. 50-63). San Fransico, CA: Pearson                      Benjamin Cummings.

Kolb, B., & Gibb, R. (2003). Brain plasticity and behavior. Current Directions in Psychological
Science, 12(1), 1-5

1 comment:

  1. Great read! There needs to be as much information about TBIs for the public to access as possible. We can never know enough about how the brain heals. looking forward to part 2!