CogniFit's Science blog: Brain Plasticity And Its Effects On Learning And Memory

Brain Plasticity And Its Effects On Learning And Memory

Brain plasticity, also referred to as neuroplasticity, is essentially the brain’s ability to change throughout life. There is no denying the fact that the brain is an extraordinary aspect to the human body and has an amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new neurons, or the connections between brain cells.

There are many facets that play a role in brain plasticity. Genetic factors are certainly key, but so too is the environment we live in and the actions each person makes. You can find neuroplasticity occurring within the brain in three phases. In the beginning of life it occurs when the brain organizes itself. If brain injury occurs, it compensates for lost functions. And throughout adulthood it makes way whenever something new is learned and memorized.

It only makes sense that brain plasticity would have a large effect on how we learn and remember various things in life. For many years people believed the connections in the brain became fixed over time. However, extensive research has proved this to be incorrect by showing the brain never stops changing through learning.

Plasticity is in fact the capacity of the brain to change with learning. The changes that typically occur with learning focus primarily at the level of the connections between neurons. As stated, new connections can form and the internal structure of the existing synapses can also change.

It is no secret that brain plasticity can also distinctively be observed in the brains of bilinguals. Learning a second language is not an easy task and certainly not something that everyone has mastered. It is possible for people to do so through functional changes in the brain. People master this because the left inferior parietal cortex is larger in bilingual brains than in monolingual brains.

With musicians, plasticity changes occur in the brain compared to non-musicians. A study conducted couple of years ago compared professional musicians with amateur musicians. It was found that gray matter volume was highest in professional musicians and lowest in non-musicians. This was the case in several parts of the brain involved in playing music like motor regions, anterior superior parietal areas and inferior temporal areas.

There have been countless studies that have proven the effect brain plasticity can have on one’s memory and learning abilities. One even showed that extensive learning of abstract information can trigger some plastic changes in the brain. It is fascinating to see what researchers and scientists continue to learn about the brain. And only time will tell what else will be identified within.