Reprogramming The Brain’s Neural NetworkWritten By: Cynthia Lipe-Heffron
In Neural Networks – Superhighways to Development, a chapter taken from Smart Moves, author, Carla Hannaford, Ph.D, explains how truly plastic our brains are. “Neural plasticity is an intrinsic, beneficial characteristic of the nervous system that gives us both the ability to learn and the ability to adapt in response to damage – to relearn.”
In case of damage to neurons in the brain (concussion or brain disorder), other neurons can make connections and take over the lost function. “Whenever we engage in new behavior the brain remodels itself”, says Michael Merzenich, Brain Plasticity Origins of Human Abilities and Disabilities.
Reorganization of the brain’s neural network is accomplished through physical and cognitive activities which circumvents damage due to injury or disorders. Quite simply, “The more you use your mind/body system, the more it will grow” – Hannaford. In essence the power of our brain is so remarkable that we can actually learn to reprogram injured areas and produce new connections to compensate. If that is the case then children should not be limited by learning disorders.
If the brain is adept at making these types of connections in brains with damage what sort of potential does a typically developing person have? “The inherent plasticity and capacity of our minds is awesome – and many people believe that as human beings we
haven’t even begun to tap into the full mental potential available to us”, Hannaford.
Dr. Carla Hannaford is a Neurophysiologist and educator
Dr. Michael M. Merzenich is a professor emeritus neuroscientist at the University
of California, San Francisco.