Frequently Asked Questions About Brain Plasticity

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I am a 30-year-old doctor living in New York. I moved here right after high school when I received an acceptance letter at NYU. From there, I went on to ace all my classes, excel during my residency, top the licensure exam, and become a resident oncologist at a private hospital.

My friends often said that I lived an envy-worthy life. After all, before I turned 27, I already managed to buy a house in the Upper East Side without getting a loan from the bank or my parents. Many cancer patients started to notice my skills and wanted me to look after them. In their eyes, I was among the most eligible bachelorettes in the city. 

While my friends celebrated that fact, my mother did not. She had a traditional view of the world, in the sense that Mom frowned upon that I was still not married at 30 or at least in a serious relationship that might lead to marriage. Whenever I thought she would forget to mention it during our frequent video calls, she would say something about it before I could say bye.

My mother did not understand that my singlehood was not a result of a lack of trying to find an incredible man. I was – and still am – on the lookout for the right – not perfect – guy; it just so happened that I had not found him yet. If you ask my mother about it, though, she would tell you that it’s only because I was picky.

Well, I could not deny that even if I tried. I was far from being a snub, but I knew I deserved to have a little high standard after everything I had done to improve myself, my life, and my career. I refused to act like men who would settle for anyone who could offer nothing but a great body and a fabulous time in bed. (Harsh, yes, but true!)

Explaining A Woman’s Brain

A new colleague and friend who worked as a neuroscientist at the hospital once overheard my mother talking about my choosiness when it came to men. She seemed amused by our banter, but when Mom turned to her for backup, she surprised my mother and me when she disagreed with her, albeit politely.

“Is there some singlehood club in this hospital?” Mom asked, surprised.

The neuroscientist laughed. “No, no, Mrs. Baxter. In truth, my husband and I had just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary last week,” she replied.

“Why are you siding with my daughter then?”

“Your daughter’s behavior is quite normal based on scientific research,” the neuroscientist explained. “The brain of a woman is different to that of a man, in the sense that the neural pathways in the left and right hemispheres have more connections. Because of that, women like your daughter experience neuroplasticity more than men and have better intuition.”

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Mom seemed taken aback. “Neuro— Can you say that one more time?”

Giggling, I decided to step in and tug my mother’s arm. “She just means I am doing the smart thing by not letting peer pressure push me to marry the first guy who proposes to me.”

Of course, that was not enough explanation for dear ol’ Mom. She continued to quiz me about brain plasticity all the way back to my house. 

Assuming you want to understand it in the psychological sense, allow me to share some things that my mother and I discussed.

How does brain plasticity relate to psychology? 

 Brain plasticity pertains to the ever-changing neural pathways that allow you to experience different emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It is related to psychology since this field focuses on the neural changes that cause people to act or feel a certain way.

What does plasticity of the brain mean? 

 Plasticity of the brain means that this part of your body can alter the neural connections for as long as you’re alive.

What gives the brain its neuroplasticity? 

 Neuroplasticity is not always evident unless you experience a physical injury, change your environment, or decide to do a behavioral overhaul. 

How does brain plasticity change with age? 

 When you are still young, your brain can exhibit plasticity and generate more neurons since you have only started to gain new information. It works at its best during early childhood – the time when your brain is like a new sponge that wants to absorb everything.

Once you hit adolescence, though, neuroplasticity is at 50%. This is a significant reduction, considering you begin laying out the foundations of your life at this point.

The older you get from here on out, and the less you want to learn new things, the more your brain’s plasticity decreases.

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Can I rewire my brain? 

 People used to claim that neuroplasticity did not exist, that it was impossible to change how your brain is wired. However, recent studies have shown otherwise, so yes, you can rewire your brain.

How does behavior change the brain? 

 Behavior changes the brain by modifying neural connections that make the new action possible. For instance, if you want to learn how to play the guitar, you may show the inclination to know the right way of plucking or pressing the strings. Neuroplasticity happens then so that there will be new neural pathways that allow your fingers to be flexible enough to do that and develop muscle memory.

What factors influence brain plasticity? 

 One of the primary factors influencing brain plasticity is environmental change. For instance, if you used to live in a community where you are a part of the minority, you may have felt the need to watch your actions to avoid attracting unwanted attention. But when you move to another town where you belong to the majority, you may start walking around with your head held high or develop a happier, more relaxed attitude.

A brain injury can also influence neuroplasticity, in the sense that your head gets shaken up or, worse, traumatized after an accident or illness. When that happens, it will create more neurons to stabilize your brain functions somewhat.

Substance abuse is another factor that may influence your brain’s plasticity. At first, it may feel like the drugs make you smarter and help you learn new things. But the more you depend on the substances and use them habitually, the more they can block signals from passing through neurons.

Other factors include aging, pregnancy, diet, stress, and illnesses.

Can a damaged brain reorganize itself? 

 Ideally speaking, yes, a damaged brain can reorganize itself. Your brain is more resilient than many people realize, in the sense that it can recover from injuries. However, the reality is that the damage’s intensity determines how well the reorganization process will take place.

If you bonked your head on a door or banged it on a steering wheel during an accident, the damage may not be extensive. Neuroplasticity will still occur, but you may not notice it because you continue to function optimally. Suppose you have undergone brain surgery or dealt with another condition that leaves you unconscious for days. In that case, the damage may be beyond irreparable, and your brain can practically patch things up.

What increases brain plasticity? 

 Exercising is among the best ways to increase plasticity since it boosts the oxygen level in the brain. When you do cardiovascular exercises regularly, you need not worry about your neural connections never changing.

Sleeping also increases neuroplasticity, considering that’s when your brain can reset your neural pathways in peace. If you are awake, other thoughts and emotions may prevent it from focusing on a single task.

Furthermore, getting rid of all your stressors is essential to increase brain plasticity. Stress hormones tend to make you stuck on a few thoughts; you may not even want to move or do anything else. Without them, your brain can continue creating new neurons quickly.

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What happens during learning brain and behavior changes? 

 The idea is that whatever we learn causes new neurons, given that we have no preconceived knowledge about those things to connect the information to.

How does learning new things affect the brain? 

 When you learn new things, your brain reassesses your neural pathways and figures out where it can create new ones.

How does exercise help brain plasticity? 

 Exercise helps brain plasticity by increasing the amount of oxygen that goes up in your head. This is essential for the generation of new neurons.

Which exercise is best for the brain? 

 Cardiovascular exercises are the best for the brain. Hence, start jogging, walking, running, and doing other activities.

How can I sharpen my brain

 The first thing is to read as many books as possible. Reading always comes with comprehension, which means that your brain does not stop working. The more you read, the more information you can obtain. Thus, your neuroplasticity may not decline too much.

Another option is to fix your posture. It seems too simple, but standing, walking, or sitting with a straight back will promote proper blood circulation. Your brain will then have the regular supply of oxygen that it needs. Aside from that, you can look for a new hobby. Doing so pushes your brain to make new neurons and accommodate new ideas.

Is walking good for the brain? 

 Yes, walking is good for the brain, not just for the heart. According to scientists, when you put your weight on each foot, the resulting pressure waves travel towards the arteries and boost the brain’s blood supply. Because of that, it can continue creating neurons.

Final Thoughts

It took a few more days for my mother to understand neuroplasticity and its relation to my situation. Despite that, she finally stopped bugging me for not being married at my age when she did. I guess the lack of pressure helped, considering I found a wonderful boyfriend a few months after that, and we are now set to tie the knot two years later.