One of the most remarkable features of the central nervous system (Brain) is ability to change over time and adapt to the circumstances. Have you ever wondered how blind, deaf or dumb people can function or adapt in society Well, this is one example of plasticity. Basically Neuro-Plasticity has 3 phases.
1. At the beginning of life when the immature brain organizes itself.
2. Anytime there is brain injury: to compensate for loss of functions.
3. Through adulthood: whenever something new is learned.
In Medical School, I read this book called “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science.” If any of you get a chance, definitely read this book. One fascinating example of Neuro-Plasticity of the brain is when someone suffers from a stroke. A stroke initially impairs ones ability to move certain parts of there body because of hypoxia to a region of the brain. But remarkably, if the brain is not fully damaged, after rehabilitation, that same person who had a stroke can ultimately start having movement again. Why you may ask Well our brain compensates for damage by reorganizing and forming new connections between intact neurons.
As said in a reply in one of the initial responses, our ability to undergo changes in our brain can be influenced as to what we do daily. Research has shown that London taxi drivers have a larger hippo-campus then London bus drivers. This is because this region of the hippo-campus is specialized in acquiring and using complex spatial information in order to navigate efficiently. Taxi drivers have to navigate around London whereas bus drivers follow a limited set of routes. Another example is of people who are musicians vs non musicians. They found that gray matter or cortical area of the brain is highest in professional musicians, intermediate in amateur musicians, and lowest in non-musicians in several brain areas involved in playing music such as the anterior superior parietal areas and inferior temporal areas. (Gaser and Shaug, 2003)
One surprising article I read when doing my research on this fascinating topic was that, some researchers believe that neurons can regenerate. Recently, one study demonstrated that new neurons could be triggered by direct injection of a chemical that stimulates neurogenesis into the feeding center area of the hypothalamus of rodents. Survival of these new neurons in the adult depends on their ability to make functional contacts with existing neurons. When I was in Medical school, we learned that the nerve cells did not regenerate.