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Are neurons that have been used for years ever re-delegated?

  1. Oct 4, 2016 #1
    I'm not sure if this specific question has been already covered.
    If a person in his 60s who had been say, a painter all his life, decides to instead learn to play an instrument, what happens to the neural processes in his brain?

    Will the brain use brand-new neurons to create a brand new behavior? Are there ever neurons "waiting around for" or "being made when" a new behavior or brain process comes around?

    And the neurons that were firing the actions specifically for painting, will they just "sit around" waiting to be fired in case painting every gets engaged again? That is my understanding, that they might fade slowly, gaining atrophy, but not really "disappear".

    If they are not really used anymore, might they start being recruited for the new instrument playing, or some other new or old action?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 4, 2016 #2
    I think that "knowledge" is in the weightings of the connections between the neurons not the neurons themselves. If this is the case does it alter the question you might ask?
  4. Oct 4, 2016 #3

    jim mcnamara

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    Staff: Mentor

    Hmm - consider neuroplasticity

    And - It does not necessarily follow that all the same neurons would be involved in the transition.
  5. Oct 4, 2016 #4
    Right! I always forget that it's the synapses that run the show. Thanks Cosmik. The question doesn't change, but it helped answer it.
    An thanks Jim too.
    I guess every painter and every musician use their hands, so those connections will continue. It is a matter of creating new networks between neurons within their synapses, right?
  6. Oct 4, 2016 #5
    I just found a video that explains neuroplasticity in a quick simple way, but this explanation, and how they show only two paths that are independent, and one starts being used as if it is getting used for the very first time (I've heard a similar "new path in the forest" explanation as well) is the main reason why I got confused, wondering: where do these unused neurons reside, until we turn 60 and decide to change a habit.
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