Brain Plasticity, also known as Neuroplasticity, is the brain’s ability to change by adding or restructuring neural pathways based on the activity or inactivity of our minds and bodies. Learning to play the piano causes the brain to create more brain cell connections among the motor, auditory and visual parts of the brain. Lack of piano playing for a number of years will proompt the brain to disconnect a number of the same neural pathways for greater efficiency.
In the not too distant past, it was steadfastly believed brain cells were never replaced. The number of neurons present at birth were the sum total of what was available regardless of cell loss from aging, illness and injury.
In the late 1940’s, Polish neuroscientist Jerzy Knorski was researching conditioned responses, when he coined the term “neuroplasticity” to describe the brain’s ability to change itself. During the same decade, Canadian scientist Donald Hebb, wrote about his observations that brain cells form new connections or pathways with nearby cells, when they persistently fire at the same time. His scientific statement was shortened to the saying, “Neurons that fire together wire together”.
In the 1990’s, neuroscientist Elizabeth Gould unexpectedly found stem cells in the brains of different mammals. In 1999,
Gould published an article providing proof that primate brains produce neuronal stem cells in a process known as neurogenesis. The scientific community conceded she was correct, and brain research has been bursting at the seams ever since.
Brain Plasticity is critical for the healthy development of physical skills, emotion regulation, learning, language, memory and the recovery of abilities in the brain lost through aging, illness, such as stroke or injury such as a head injury.