According to The Conversation, neuroplasticity is defined as ability for the brain to shift and change across the lifespan in response to ongoing experiences, ranging from our genes to our environment. It changes by rewiring itself, re-learning and strengthening the bonds between the multiple synapses in our brain.
There are two main types of neuroplasticity:
- Structural plasticity: The ability of the brain to change its physical structure when learning new things, such as when learning a new language.
- Functional plasticity: The ability of the brain to move functions from a damaged area to a newer area, like during a traumatic event.
The Gene — Environment Interaction
Our genes alone do not change neurocognitive circumstances, it relies of information from our environment to do so. Concurrently, the environment we live in does not change our brains on its own, it relies on our genes to make it happen. In other words, the gene-environment interaction influences the rate and speed of neuroplasticity.
This is not to say that our brains are made from Play-Doh and can be molded so simply. No, what I’m suggesting here, is that the brain is quite malleable at times, for better or for worse.
What makes a brain shift?
- Learning a new skill, such as learning a new language.
- Traumatic incidents and injuries.
- Resilience against cognitive decline, including dementia.
- Increases in intelligence, as your brain builds connections between previously two unrelated concepts.
- Forgotten memories that are replaced by, or maintained by, newer memories.
- General neurological and physical growth across the lifespan.
- The advent and onset of puberty…and many more.