The brain is a remarkable organ. It constantly adapts and evolves based on our experiences, and possesses the ability to reorganize neural connections as we go throughout our lives. This ability is known as neuroplasticity. Understanding neuroplasticity is important! It can help us understand our capacity to grow and change.
New research has led to a theory that there are different types of neuroplasticity. Understanding this may give us an even deeper insight into our behaviors and capabilities.
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure itself in response to experience, learning, and environmental changes. It is a complex process involving the formation of new neural connections, the elimination of unused ones, and the strengthening of existing pathways. This adaptability allows the brain to compensate for injuries, learn new skills, and adapt to new circumstances. For example, neuroplasticity is what allows our brain to heal after an injury. It’s also what allows us to learn a new skill or language.
Repeated practice of cognitive skills can help our brains to recover and change. HappyNeuron Pro is based upon the science of neuroplasticity – exercising our cognitive functions may help the brain to create and strengthen neural connections, leading to improved cognitive function.
Recently, two researchers have proposed that there are two subcategories of neuroplasticity: upward and downward. Upward neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to construct new synaptic connections, and downward neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s deconstruction of former connections. These sub-categories recognize that the process of neuroplasticity is not only about building new connections but also dismantling old ones.
Typically when we think of neuroplasticity, we think of the upward kind. Examples of upward neuroplasticity include the brain processes involved in learning new skills, forming new habits, and healing the brain such as in the case of a TBI or stroke. Generally, upward neuroplasticity is thought of as a hopeful concept as it allows our brains to change in positive ways.
Despite what it may sound like, downward neuroplasticity isn’t necessarily opposed to upward. It isn’t necessarily negative. When we form a new healthy habit, we may let go of an unhealthy habit. For example, if we begin exercising regularly, we may eventually overwrite the connections in our brain that are accustomed to not exercising and would instead encourage us to sit on the couch. Overwriting former, less helpful habits is an example of downward neuroplasticity. You can’t have one without the other. So, downward neuroplasticity is actually a vital and helpful process as well.
Another example of downward neuroplasticity is the weakening or disconnection of synapses caused by aging. While this has a more negative connotation, it is a natural part of life and aging which we all must acknowledge. It’s important to remember that this type of downward neuroplasticity may be slowed down through proactive measures such as engaging in cognitive activities, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and managing stress levels.
This new theory about neuroplasticity provides an interesting reframe of how the brain changes throughout our lives. Neuroplasticity allows us to learn new skills and develop our cognition, including overcoming injuries or other conditions that affect cognition. Understanding how it works can empower us to take action in our lives to work towards improved cognition.
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