It was once thought that the connections in our brain set like concrete as we age. We now recognize that the brain can be remolded throughout life. We call this neuroplasticity and it offers hope.
Your brain is more like plasticine than you might think. It bends and adapts when faced with mental challenges, and you can keep it in fit shape by staying mentally active.
Every time we learn some new fact or skill our brain changes. In this way we say the brain is “plastic"; this ability to bend and subtly reshape remains throughout our life.
Not long ago it was thought our brain’s networks were etched forever like circuits on a computer chip. And it was believed damage to these circuits through disease or injury was pretty much forever. But our brain is far more flexible than was once thought.
Each day, brain cells spring to life while others cast out new links to neighbours. New patterns are made in a rich and changing tapestry of brain cells (neurons) that reflects what we have done, seen and learnt. The injured brain can also respond with new cells or a reweaving to compensate for damage. This emerging picture of a more flexible brain offers us far more hope. We now know that – like your muscles – your brain can be toned and exercised by mental challenges and better prepared for whatever life throws at you.
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