Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical Neuroplasticity in brain development

  1. Jan 9, 2008 #1
    I just saw a fascinating show on PBS, talking about how the brain can improve itself through a process called neuroplasticity. The program was aired during pledge week, but I am curious if this is an actual principle that most scientists agree on?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 9, 2008 #2
    There is now ample evidence to support cortical re-mapping {Neuroplasticity}. And it is well funded in research.
    Lol if I could get my browser to work, I would give you some web site links. Hopefully someone else can provide them for you.
  4. Jan 11, 2008 #3
    I also saw the special and yes, from what I can tell neuroplasticity is a generally accepted principle. Although that’s an odd way of putting it: it’s more an attribute of our brains. I originally became familiar with the subject when I read about Posit Science’s brain fitness program, which was built around the nature of neuroplasticity. The program just underwent a clinical trial, which found that program participants didn’t simply learn memory tricks, they actually showed generalized gains of 10 years in memory.
  5. Jan 26, 2008 #4
    You can find ample evidence of neuroplasticity by looking at studies of people born blind. Their visual cortex often gets "reprogrammed" to add extra smell or hearing abilities for example.
  6. Jan 27, 2008 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Yes, neuroplasticity is a well accepted process. The term itself is fairly generic, and can be used to describe any change in neuronal connections or functions; there are many mechanisms through which it can occur. For example, you can get outgrowth of axons or dendrites to strengthen or rearrange synaptic connections, or you can get changes in the glial sheath around axon terminals to "allow" access to some neurons or not others.

    Neuroplasticity is most commonly studied in processes of learning and memory, reproductive function and behavior (including seasonality), developmental processes, and neuronal regeneration following recovery from injury (i.e., brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injuries, peripheral nerve damage, etc.).
  7. Jan 28, 2008 #6
    I would say neuroplasticity is indeed something you can bet on. I mean, I have no sufficient hard evidence or any scientific articles to back me up, but:
    look at chess players, they can be brilliant at chess, they brain has been so reprogrammed into, their brain is highly specialized in playing chess. That means they lose the other functions like solving arithmetics quickly, or knowledge to work out atomic orbitals etc.
    Look at musicians, they have developed such an ear, I swear, their sense of smell taste and sight probably compromised for their sense of hearing.
  8. Feb 11, 2008 #7
    That's not exactly how it works. Training your ear won't mean you'll lose sight or smell.

    What you see in people who are extremely good at only one task is not a result of exercising that ability too much, but rather a result of exercising only that ability and nothing else.

    So yes, it's common that you'll see someone who's an incredible musician, brilliant at composing music, and yet is terrible at math. This is not because their music part of the brain is somehow "stealing power" from their math side or anything like that; it's most likely because that person, growing up, spent all of their time playing music, and not enough time exercising other areas of their intelligence. The brain is very much a use it or lose it organ... I remember reading about a study that said that being mentally inactive for as little as 3 weeks reduced test subjects' scores in IQ tests by as much as 20 points.

    Think of it like weight lifting: if you spend all day working on your biceps, yea, your arms are going to be huge, but you probably won't be of much use running a marathon. So it's important to work our all parts of your body for a little bit, even if you plan to specialize in a sport that uses one part of your body more than the rest, or they will atrophy.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2008
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook