Neuroplasticity

Rewire Your Brain By Increasing Neuroplasticity

Key Takeaways

6 Tips to Increase Neuroplasticity

1. Learning Something New

Learning new skills like music or language boosts neuroplasticity, helping the brain form new pathways. These activities lead to positive structural changes in the brain.

2. Exercising Regularly

Regular exercise boosts neuroplasticity by increasing blood flow and nutrients to the brain. It promotes new neuron growth, particularly in the hippocampus, which aids learning and memory.

3. Sleeping Well

Sleep is crucial for neuroplasticity, helping to solidify new information in long-term memory. During deep sleep, the brain strengthens and forms new neural connections.

4. Eating Healthy Diets

Eating a balanced diet provides essential nutrients for the brain, supporting neuroplasticity and cognitive function while reducing inflammation.

5. Practicing Meditation and Relaxation Techniques

Meditation reduces stress and its harmful effects on the brain. It enhances neuroplasticity by forming new neural connections and boosting gray matter in the hippocampus.

6. Socializing

Socializing boosts neuroplasticity by engaging multiple senses and stimulating hormone production like oxytocin.

What Is Neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the nervous system to adapt by re-organizing its structure and functions. i.e. forming new neural connections. It is the process by which the brain changes in response to experiences and learning. [1]

Benefits of Neuroplasticity 

1. Improved learning and memory

Neuroplasticity allows the brain to make new connections between neurons- Neurons are information messengers. This improves learning and memory by making it easier to store and retrieve information.

2. Recovery from injury

Neuroplasticity plays a crucial role in the recovery of brain function after injury, allowing the surrounding healthy neurons to compensate for the loss of function by forming new connections and taking new roles. [2]

3. Enhanced cognitive function

Neuroplasticity is all about forming new neural pathways and enhancing existing ones. This leads to improvements in cognitive functions such as attention, reasoning, and problem-solving.

4. Reduced age-related cognitive decline

Neuroplasticity can slow down age-related cognitive decline. Studies have shown that enhancing neuroplasticity is a promising therapeutic approach to improving cognition in Alzheimer’s disease. [3]

5. Increased creativity and innovation

As neuroplasticity evokes a change of structure and function in the brain, it inspires new ways of thinking and increases creativity.

How To Increase Neuroplasticity According To Science

1. Learning Something New

Novel activities can support neuroplasticity by providing new opportunities for the brain to learn and adapt.

By engaging in new activities, such as learning a new skill or experiencing a new environment, individuals can increase their brain's ability to create new neural pathways, rewire existing networks, and form new connections. [4]

For example, learning a new musical instrument can support neuroplasticity by increasing the ability to learn and recall new information, improving coordination and fine motor skills, and promoting positive changes in the brain.

Studies have shown that musicians have more substantial gray matter volumes in motor and auditory regions compared to non-musicians. [5]

Another neuroplasticity-enhancing method is learning a new language. Learning a new language, even in adulthood, increases gray matter density in regions associated with language processing, increasing cortical thickness, and supporting white matter integrity. [6]

2. Exercising Regularly

Physical activity promotes neuroplasticity by increasing blood flow to the brain, which brings more oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. This subsequently helps to support the growth and survival of new neurons and the formation of new neural connections.

Regular exercise increases the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. [7]

Additionally, exercise increases neurotrophic factors, which are molecules that support the survival of existing neurons and the growth of new ones. [8]

Physical activity can also increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that helps with new neurons' growth and synapses. [9]

It’s worth mentioning that long-term exercise increases myelin production. It is the insulation that surrounds neurons and helps them communicate more effectively. [10]

Finally, physical activity positively affects mood and stress management. That benefits the brain, as chronic stress has been linked to shrinkage in brain regions such as the hippocampus.

3. Sleeping Well

Sleep plays a key role in supporting neuroplasticity. During deep sleep, the brain consolidates new information and experiences, helping to solidify them in long-term memory. [11]

This process involves strengthening neural connections that were formed during the day, as well as forming new connections to integrate new information with existing knowledge.

Sleep does that because it influences the expression of genes associated with building new synapses and strengthening existing synapses in the cortex and hippocampus. [12]

Finally, during Rapid Eye Movement (REM), the brain creates new neural connections, an important aspect of neuroplasticity. [13]

4. Eating Healthy Diets

Healthy diets provide vital nutrients for the growth, maintenance, and repair of brain cells and tissues.

Eating a balanced diet which includes a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats, can provide the brain with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are essential for optimal brain plasticity.

These nutrients are important for neurogenesis (the formation of new neurons), neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to re-organize itself), and cognitive function. [14]

A healthy diet can also help reduce inflammation in the brain, which can impair cognitive function and plasticity.

5. Practicing Meditation And Relaxation Techniques

Stress can cause brain inflammation, which can interfere with the brain's ability to make new connections. Long-term, chronic stress can shrink certain brain regions, disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters, and reduce BDNF levels. All these complications can lead to the death of neurons, and hinder brain plasticity. [15]

This is where relaxation techniques come into play. Meditation reduces levels of stress hormones in the body, such as cortisol, which can help reduce inflammation and damage to brain cells.

Research has shown that regular meditation can lead to an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus, which is associated with better memory, and mood regulation. [16]

Meditation and other relaxation practices, such as yoga and taichi, promote plasticity by providing new and challenging experiences for the brain to process. This keeps the brain active and engaged, and can also lead to the forming of new neural connections as the brain adapts to the new demands.

6. Socializing

Social interaction increases neuroplasticity in several ways.

Emotional and social interaction involves using multiple senses (sight, sound, touch, etc.), which can help stimulate the brain in different ways.

Additionally, engaging in meaningful conversations and social activities can help to increase the production of certain hormones, such as oxytocin, which improves brain plasticity. [17]

Finally, social interaction helps to provide a supportive environment for learning and memory formation. This can help to create new neural pathways, and strengthen existing ones, leading to increased plasticity in the brain.

Conclusion

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to re-organize its neural pathways in response to changes in the environment. This adaptation is facilitated by forming new synapses between neurons, allowing the brain to store and process further information.

Neuroplasticity is essential in reducing age-related cognitive decline, improving learning and memory, increasing cognitive function, brain resilience, and creativity, and supporting the recovery of function after a brain injury.

A healthy and stimulating lifestyle promotes and maintains neuroplasticity.

A balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, engaging in meaningful activities, and developing strong emotional and social connections are all vital elements that can help support neuroplasticity.

Additional Readings

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The Neuroscience Of Sleep; All You Need To Know

Your Lifestyle Shapes Your Mental Health

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References

[1]Neuroplasticity - PubMed (nih.gov)

[2]Neural plasticity after peripheral nerve injury and regeneration - PubMed (nih.gov)

[3]Alzheimer disease and neuroplasticity - PubMed (nih.gov)

[4]Reorganization and plastic changes of the human brain associated with skill learning and expertise - PMC (nih.gov)

[5]Gray matter differences between musicians and nonmusicians - PubMed (nih.gov)

[6]Neuroplasticity as a function of second language learning: anatomical changes in the human brain - PubMed (nih.gov)

[7]The Neuroprotective Effects of Exercise: Maintaining a Healthy Brain Throughout Aging - PMC (nih.gov)

[8]Effects of Exercise Training on Neurotrophic Factors and Subsequent Neuroprotection in Persons with Multiple Sclerosis—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis - PMC (nih.gov)

[9]A meta-analytic review of the effects of exercise on brain-derived neurotrophic factor - PubMed (nih.gov)

[10]Treadmill exercise promotes neurogenesis and myelin repair via upregulating Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathways in the juvenile brain following focal cerebral ischemia/reperfusion - PMC (nih.gov)

[11]About sleep's role in memory - PubMed (nih.gov)

[12]Extensive and divergent effects of sleep and wakefulness on brain gene expression - PubMed (nih.gov)

[13]The Biology of REM Sleep - PMC (nih.gov)

[14]Mediterranean diet: The role of long-chain ω-3 fatty acids in fish; polyphenols in fruits, vegetables, cereals, coffee, tea, cacao and wine; probiotics and vitamins in prevention of stroke, age-related cognitive decline, and Alzheimer disease - PubMed (nih.gov)

[15]Chronic stress and brain plasticity: Mechanisms underlying adaptive and maladaptive changes and implications for stress-related CNS disorders - PubMed (nih.gov)

[16]Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem - PubMed (nih.gov)

[17](PDF) Social influences on neuroplasticity: Stress and interventions to promote well-being (researchgate.net)

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