How To Induce Neuroplasticity?
You may have heard the term neuroplasticity” thrown around a lot lately. Neuroplasticity is the brain ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Thisprocess is how we learn and remember information, and it is thought to be the mechanism underlying recovery from stroke and other forms of nervous system damage.
But what about inducing neuroplasticity on purpose, for people who don’t have neurological damage? Can we train our brains to be more plastic, and if so, how?
First, it important to understand that neuroplasticity is not just about forming new neural connections. It also involves strengthening existing connections and weakening or breaking others. So, when we talk about inducing neuroplasticity,” we are really talking about promoting beneficial changes in neural circuitry.
There are many ways to do this, but most of them can be grouped into two general categories:
Behavioral methods: These involvechanging your behaviorin some way that encourages new neural connections to form or existing ones to strengthen. Examples include physical activity, learning a new skill, meditation, and Exposure Therapy for treating anxiety disorders.
Neurochemical methods: These involveintroducing new chemicalsinto the brain that promote neuroplasticity. Examples include smart drugs like caffeine and modafinil, as well as natural compounds like omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin.
Of course, there is some overlap between these categories, as many neurochemical methods involve changing behaviors (e.g., taking a smart drug) and many behavioral methods involve introducing new chemicals into the brain (e.g., physical activity increases levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin).
The best way to induce neuroplasticity is likely to vary from person to person, depending on factors like age, genetics, and current lifestyle. However, there are some general principles that seem to apply to everyone:
Use it or lose it: The brain is like a muscle in that it will atrophy from disuse. So, if you want to keep your brain plastic, you need to keep using it. This means frequently challenging yourself with new tasks and experiences, even (or especially) if they make you a little uncomfortable.
Repetition is key: The more you do something, the more likely it is that new neural connections will form in response to it. This is why things like Physical Therapy and Anki flashcard review can be so effective they provide a way to repeat the same task or information over and over again in a relatively short period of time.
Start early: The brain is most plastic during childhood and adolescence, so this is the best time to start working on inducing neuroplasticity. That said, it never too late to start even older adults can experience significant benefits from training their brains.
So those are some general principles for inducing neuroplasticity. If you want to get more specific, there are many different techniques you can try, depending on your goals and preferences. Here are a few examples: