what is brain plasticity

Unlocking Your Brain's Potential: An In-Depth Look at Brain Plasticity + Tips on How to Enhance Cognitive Function

Sep 16, 2023
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Have you ever wondered how your brain is able to adapt and learn new things? 

It’s because of a concept called brain plasticity, also known as neural plasticity or neuroplasticity. And in this article, we'll explore what brain plasticity is, how it relates to learning, and ways you can enhance this cognitive function. 

What is Brain Plasticity?

Brain plasticity, also known as neural plasticity or neuroplasticity, is your brain's ability to change and adapt throughout life. This process occurs through the formation of new neural connections and the strengthening or weakening of existing ones, which both play a crucial role in learning, adaptation, and recovery from injury.

When it comes to brain plasticity and learning, brain plasticity allows you to acquire new skills and knowledge by modifying your neural pathways. In other words, when you learn something new, such as a musical instrument or a foreign language, your brain creates new connections and strengthens existing ones. With practice and repetition, these connections become more efficient, allowing you to perform the task with greater ease and accuracy.

In adaptation, brain plasticity allows you to adjust to changes in your environment. For example, when you move to a new city or start a new job, you must learn new skills and adapt to new challenges. Brain plasticity enables you to do this by reshaping your neural networks and creating new pathways for information processing.

In recovery from injury, brain plasticity is crucial for rehabilitation. After a brain injury or stroke, your brain can essentially reorganize itself, which helps you regain lost function and improve your quality of life.

The Mechanisms of Brain Plasticity

So, how can your brain do this? 

Brain plasticity is facilitated by several key mechanisms—synaptic plasticity, neurogenesis, and myelination—that enable your brain to change and adapt throughout life. 

  • Synaptic plasticity refers to the ability of synapses, or the connections between neurons, to change in strength and number. This process plays a critical role in learning and memory formation. When you learn something new, your brain creates new synaptic connections or strengthens existing ones, which enables you to better retain and recall new information over time.
  • Neurogenesis is the process of creating new neurons in your brain. While it was once believed that adult brains were incapable of generating new neurons, some evidence has shown that neurogenesis may occur throughout life. (This process is particularly important for brain repair and recovery after injury.)
  • Myelination is the formation of a fatty sheath around axons, a part of your neurons, which helps to speed up the transmission of signals between them. This process is particularly important in areas of your brain involved in complex cognitive tasks, such as decision-making and problem-solving. Myelination continues throughout childhood and adolescence, contributing to the development of cognitive abilities.

Understanding these key mechanisms involved in brain plasticity is important for unlocking the full potential of the human brain and developing effective treatments for neurological conditions. How cool is that?

The Types of Brain Plasticity: Functional and Structural

Now that you know a little bit about brain plasticity, let’s get into the two main types of it: functional and structural. 

  • Functional plasticity refers to your brain's ability to reorganize its neural networks in response to changing demands. For example, if you learn a new skill, such as playing a musical instrument, your brain will reorganize itself to support this new activity. This type of plasticity is often rapid and dynamic, allowing your brain to adapt quickly to new experiences and challenges.
  • Structural plasticity, on the other hand, involves changes in the physical structure of your brain, such as the growth of new neurons or the formation of new synapses. This type of plasticity is an ongoing process that continues throughout your life and is influenced by a variety of factors, including lifestyle choices. For example, regular exercise has been shown to promote the growth of new neurons and synapses in your brain, while chronic stress can have negative effects on brain structure.

Both types of plasticity play a role in learning, adaptation, and recovery from injury. Specifically, functional plasticity allows you to quickly adjust to changing demands and acquire new skills, and structural plasticity enables you to physically rewire your brain in response to new experiences and challenges.

What Factors Can Influence Brain Plasticity?

If you want to support brain plasticity, there are several lifestyle factors that can positively influence brain plasticity and enhance your cognitive skills. Here are some examples:

  • Physical activity: Regular exercise has been shown to increase the production of growth factors in your brain, which can help promote the growth of new neurons and synapses. Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can be as simple as taking a walk around the block or doing some light stretching. 
  • Mindfulness meditation: Practicing mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase gray matter density in certain areas of your brain, as well as improve attention and cognitive control. Simply setting aside a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness can have significant benefits for brain plasticity. 
  • Diet: A healthy diet that includes nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and B vitamins can provide the building blocks needed for optimal brain function. Some examples of brain-healthy foods include fatty fish, berries, leafy greens, and nuts. 
  • Sleep: Adequate sleep is crucial for brain function and plasticity. During sleep, your brain consolidates memories and clears out toxins that can interfere with cognitive function. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to support optimal brain function. 
  • Social engagement: Social interaction has been shown to promote brain plasticity and protect against cognitive decline. This can be as simple as spending time with friends and family or joining a social group, like a book club.
  • Cognitive challenges: Regularly engaging in cognitively challenging activities, such as solving puzzles, learning a new skill, or playing brain training games on the Elevate app, can help promote brain plasticity and enhance cognitive skills.

Leveraging Brain Plasticity with the Elevate App

Now that you understand brain plasticity, it’s time to implement a few cognitive enhancement strategies that’ll help keep your brain sharp. 

One of the best is playing games on the award-winning brain training app Elevate. The Elevate app leverages the concept of brain plasticity to enhance your cognitive skills through a variety of features and exercises. It’s backed by science and designed to improve your vocabulary, mental math, memory skills, and more.

But don’t just take it from us. Here are what others are saying about the Elevate app for brain plasticity:

  • “Great mental workout to start the day. Elevate sets itself apart from other brain training games. I highly enjoy playing Elevate once a day, in the morning, in order to stay sharp.”

  • “I started using this app several years ago, just to keep my brain sharp and because I tend to like these types of games. What I didn't expect is how helpful it really is in the business world. Honing my grammar alone has been hugely beneficial, especially in the days of spellcheckers. They may catch a misspelling, but that still doesn't mean it's the right word. It’s a very enjoyable app that I'm still using after several years!”

  • “Elevate is a fantastic way to keep the brain sharp mixed in with daily life.”

Start Unlocking Your Brain’s Potential Today

As you can see, brain training is a valuable cognitive enhancement tool that can improve brain plasticity and overall mental performance along with other healthy lifestyle choices. So why not give it a try? 

With the Elevate app, which is available on iOS and Android, you can engage in fun and effective brain training exercises tailored to your needs. Download it today, and start your unlocking your brain’s full potential!

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