Monday, 2 June 2014

The Plastic Brain.

   When I was a medical student, we were taught (and there was no doubt about it) that fairly early in childhood the brain was cemented into shape and incapable of further development or repair, even when diseased or damaged. That belief dramatically effected the concept of what could be achieved in the treatment or management of diseases of the nervous system and greatly limited the horizons.  So when I started reading occasional articles about neuroplasticity in the early twenty first century, I found it very promising.   There is now an irrefutable body of evidence that the nervous system possesses a plasticity we never suspected.  That given favorable circumstances it could repair or remodel itself. That supports the thesis that new synaptic pathways can be developed that  bypass damaged areas of the brain and that structural  remodeling can take place. Even the aging brain can be trained to protect old pathways and develop new ones. The implications of that alone may be enormous.  It is not clear whether  various training activities that have been designed to protect the aging brain or help repair brain damage are effective, although some comments I have read would suggest they are not.  I would like to hear from anyone who has had any experience of such programs before I decide whether to register myself  for one and assess its efficiency in improving memory and general brain agility. In the meantime I intend to look further into the specifics of neuroplasticity, a promising and encouraging phenomenon.

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