[WEB SITE] KIN450-Neurophysiology – Plasticity

Plasticity

Brain Plasticity

Introduction

Brain plasticity, a.k.a Neuroplasticity, refers to the brains’ ability to “remap” and change according to personal experiences. The brain is composed of multiple cortices and lobes (Figure 1) that mature at different times in a human life span, for example, the frontal lobe is the last to mature and does not mature until the early mid twenties and the amygdala is most active and developing during adolescence.

Brain plasticity does not mean that one would find the occipital lobe where the frontal lobe would be normally found during an accident nor does it mean that one lobe would overtake another. This is because once the brain develops, they are generally located where figure 1 illustrates. What brain plasticity refers the strength of the connections between the neuron and the glial cells within the brain.

Glial cells make about 50% of the brains’ neurons and they function as the supporting cell for the other neurons. During learning it has been observed that there is an increase of strength between the connections as well as the formation of new cells (Wikipedia).

It has been thought that once passed a critical period the brain cannot change. This idea is true to some extent and it can be observed in other animals, for example, when certain bird species hatches, the first animal it sees it will follow even if the animal is not a human. This can be said about humans as well. There have been feral children found with no explanations that have seemed to have survived in the wilderness with the aid of other animals. Some kids were taught to behave as humans again but some human behaviors, like language, could not be learned. It is known that learning a language is easier when one is younger but if the critical period for language acquisition is missed, which is in the first couple months of infant development, language cannot be learned.Though the critical periods are crucial in development of the brain, there are high adaptable areas in the brain that can adjust to by external changes of training.

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