Our brain doesn’t dictate to us and predetermine our actions. Rather we can shape our brains by the actions we choose to do and even by the way we think and approach life.
Just like exercising your muscles can help them grow and work better, exercising your brain can help neurons grow.
Scientists once thought of the brain as a secure and fixed thing. It blossomed though childhood into a fixed thinking machine by adulthood. But we now know that the brain changes throughout our lives and we can grow new brain cells (neurons) and networks. The more you stimulate your brain with new experiences, or indeed exercise, the more brain cells and connections you make. This isn’t a small effect; certain areas of the brain can grow in size as we take on new skills. This idea of the changeable “plastic” brain is called neuroplasticity and it has revolutionized the way we think about our brain. We all have in our hands a way of stimulating our brain to make it fitter and healthier. Scientists even see hints that older adults can protect themselves against the declines seen with age and even diseases like Alzheimer’s by challenging themselves with new activities like reading, solving puzzles, learning a new language or learning to play the piano. It could be that by encouraging brain changes, you make your brain fitter, more flexible and better able to compensate for life’s dints and dents, giving you a healthier brain.
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Scientists are now extolling the virtues of our plastic brains. Here is a recent book by a leading scientist on neuroplasticity which offers advice on how you can rejuvenate, remodel and reshape your brain at any age.
A stroke survivor talks about how she fixed her brain thanks to therapy which took advantage of her brain’s plasticity so it could repair itself.
Dr. Norman Doidge is interviewed here about brain plasticity and how we can change our own brain.