Can we influence neuroplasticity?

“Can the mind reshape brain matter?”

“Can the mind shape the brain?”

The answer to this question lies somewhere in understanding how neuroplasticity works (If you’re not familiar with the concept, you can first read our introductory article on neuroplasticity: ‘What is neuroplasticity and why is it important for mental health’).

A growth mindset and neuroplasticity
There is an important connection between “growth mindset” and neuroplasticity: A growth mindset is a mindset whereby a person’s innate skills, talents and abilities can be developed and/or enhanced with determinationwhile neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to adapt and develop beyond the usual period of childhood development. These two concepts reflect each other.

Neuroplasticity in children

Children’s brains are constantly growing, developing and changing. Each new experience demands a change in brain structure and function.

At birth, each neuron in an infant’s brain has about 7,500 connections to other neurons; by age 2, neurons have more than double the number of connections in an adult brain (Mundkur, 2005). These connections are slowly disrupted as the child grows and begins to form their own unique patterns and connections.

There are four main types of neuroplasticity observed in children:

  1. Adaptive: changes that occur when children practice a particular skill and allow the brain to adapt to functional or structural changes in the brain (such as injury);
  2. Deteriorated: changes occur due to genetic or acquired disorders;
  3. Excessive: reorganization of new, maladaptive pathways that may cause disability or impairment;
  4. Plasticity that makes the brain vulnerable to injury: damaging neural pathways are formed that make injury more likely or more impactful (Mundkur, 2005).

These processes are stronger and more pronounced in young children, allowing them to recover from injuries more efficiently than most adults. In children, profound cases of neuroplastic growth, recovery and adaptation can be observed.

neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity in adults

This ability of the brain to adapt is not absent in adults, but is generally less noticeable than in children; however, the adult brain is still capable of extraordinary changes:

  • Can restore old, lost connections and functions that have not been used over time
  • Improves memory
  • Improves general cognitive skills.

The potential is generally not as great in older adults as it is in children and young adults, but with sustained effort and a healthy lifestyle, adults are just as capable of promoting positive change and brain growth as younger generations.

Neuroplasticity research and studies

1. Enriched environments (saturated with novelty, focused attention and challenge) are essential for promoting neuroplasticity and can cause positive growth and adaptation long after the ‘critical learning period’ of early childhood and adulthood has ended (Kempermann et al., 2002);
2. Physical activity and fitness can prevent or slow age-related neuronal death and hippocampal damage and even increase hippocampal volume (Niemann et al., 2014);
3. Intermittent fasting can promote adaptive responses at neuronal synapses (Vasconcelos et al., 2014);
4. Chronic insomnia is associated with atrophy (neuronal death and damage) in the hippocampus, whereas adequate sleep can enhance neurogenesis (Joo et al., 2014).

7 BENEFITS of Neuroplasticity on the brain

There are many ways in which neuroplasticity benefits the brain:

1.Stroke recovery;
2.Recovery from traumatic brain injury;
3. The possibility of redirecting functions in the brain (e.g. if an area that controls one direction is damaged, other areas may develop to replace the damaged area);
4.Loss of function in one area may improve function in other areas (e.g. if one direction is lost, the others may increase);
5.Improved memory skills;
6. A wide range of improved cognitive skills;
7.More effective learning.

How to reward your brain with neuroplasticity

Some of the methods that have been shown to improve or stimulate neuroplasticity include:

1. Intermittent fasting:

Increases the ability of neurons to connect, promotes neuronal growth, improves overall cognitive function and decreases the risk of neurodegenerative disease;

2. Travel:

Travelling exposes the brain to new stimuli and new environments, opening up new pathways and activities in the brain;

3. Use of mnemonic formulas:

Memory training can increase connectivity in the prefrontal parietal neural network and prevent age-related memory loss;

4. Learning a musical instrument:

It can increase connectivity between brain regions and help new neural networks form;

5. Non-dominant hand exercises:

They can form new neural pathways and strengthen connectivity between neurons;

6. Reading fiction:

Increases and improves connectivity in the brain;

7. Vocabulary expansion:

Activates visual and auditory processes, as well as memory processing;

8. Creating artworks:

Improves resting brain connectivity which can boost introspection, memory, empathy, attention and concentration;

9. Dance:

Reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and increases neuronal connectivity;

10. Sleep:

It supports learning retention by increasing dendritic neuronal endings that make the connection between neurons and help transfer information between neuronal cells (Nguyen, 2016).

depresia post-partum

Postpartum depression – what changes happen in moms’ brains after giving birth

Having a baby can trigger a variety of strong emotions in women, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety, and they may even experience various types of depression. About one in seven women may develop postpartum depression (PPD). It most commonly occurs within 6 weeks after childbirth, but symptoms can start earlier – during pregnancy – or later – up to a year after childbirth.

adolescentii si telefonul mobil 01

Connecting and disconnecting in adolescence

Connecting is an important stake in adolescence. Being part of a group, having friends, are the milestones of the age stage, with an impact on well-being and mental health. When a teenager has difficulty making friends and prefers online, parents can encourage healthy, phone-free connection patterns.

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Well-being at work: healthy boundaries, effective communication, leaving a toxic job

Well-being at work is more than just an absence of stress or discontent. It is a complex concept that involves a balance between the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the employee’s experience of the work environment. Good well-being at work is characterized by traits such as satisfaction, commitment, mental and physical health, positive relationships and high performance. It’s closely linked to personal well-being – work-life balance.

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Burnout or emotional exhaustion

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. You feel overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, and unable to cope with constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a particular role.

Psychologist, psychotherapist and psychiatrist, what do I choose?

Have you ever wondered where to turn when your mind and emotions seem to be in an endless maze? You are not alone! Understanding the differences between a psychologist, psychotherapist and psychiatrist is key to knowing who to choose based on your specific needs. So, let’s solve this puzzle together!

Emotional blackmail – how do you recognize it, how do you fight it?

Emotional blackmail is a form of subtle manipulation whereby the manipulator attempts to influence or control the target person through psychological and emotional pressure in order to get them to act in a certain way, to the detriment of their own interests and well-being. Emotional blackmail usually works in closer relationships (parent-child, family, couple, friendships), because the manipulator uses the meaning of the relationship and often tries to create feelings of (unjustified) guilt to get what he wants.

Depression: multidisciplinary approach and innovative solutions

Depression does not have a single cause, but is the result of a complex interaction between external and internal factors. Understanding these influences and addressing them in an integrated way is key to treating depression. A holistic treatment plan, which includes both psychological therapy and the management of environmental and medical factors, can bring relief and support to those affected by this difficult but common mental disorder.

Neurological and mental disorders – comparison, common points

Mental disorders occur at a very high rate in neurological pathologies and affect a large part of the world’s population. To date, 14 types of major neurological disorders are known, with a clinical picture similar to that of psychiatric diseases and disorders, which occur as a result of damage to the human brain or as a result of the development of neurological diseases.

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Cat therapy – myth or reality

Studies from all over the world also support scientifically what we – intuitively – have perceived: the company of cats is a real help in everyday life, and even more so for people with disorders or conditions such as depression or anxiety. We have summarized for you in the following lines the 10 most important mental health benefits that come with furry friends:.

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Healing the inner child to regain happiness and balance

The inner child represents all our good and not-so-good experiences that were formed in childhood along with the attachment figures and contexts of the time. These experiences are subconscious and represent the fears and difficulties felt during that period of development together with the positive experiences lived at that time,

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