“Neuroplasticity is the property of the brain that enables it to change its own structure and functioning in response to activity and mental experience.” Dr. Norman Doidge.
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The term, neuroplasticity, gained prominence in the latter half of the 20th century when new research showed many aspects of the brain remain changeable (or "plastic") even into adulthood. This notion contrasts with the previous scientific consensus that the brain develops during a critical period in early childhood, then remains relatively unchangeable (or "static") afterward.
Neuroplastic change can occur at small ways, such as physiological changes to individual neurons, or in whole brain ways, such as cortical remapping in response to injury. Behavior, environmental stimuli, thought, and emotions may also cause neuroplastic change. Thus it is that the training involves behavior, thought and emotions.
The adult brain is not "hard-wired" with fixed neuronal circuits. There are many instances of cortical and subcortical rewiring of neuronal circuits in response to training as well as in response to injury. There is solid evidence that neurogenisis (birth of brain cells) occurs in the adult brain—and such changes can persist well into old age.
Aerobic exercise promotes adult neurogenisis by increasing the production of neurotrophic factors, compounds that promote growth or survival of neurons. Consistent aerobic exercise over a period of several months induces marked clinically significant improvements in executive function and increased gray matter volume in multiple brain regions, particularly those that give rise to cognitive control. Thus this training requires consistent exercise—as aerobic as possible.
The following is a letter from Dr. Norman Doidge regarding my personal experience with Parkinson's disease.
"Christian Hageseth, M.D., is one of several people I have met who were diagnosed by their physicians with Parkinson’s Disease, who have been able, through exercise, and stimulating the neuroplastic brain, to come off their Parkinson's medication, and are now functioning better than they were, owing to regular exercise. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it brain, and exercise is absolutely essential for people with Parkinson’s Disease. Many Parkinson's patients are not aware that they can manage exercise, because they have been told Parkinson’s is inevitably progressive. As well, one of the things that happens in the illness, is that the part of the brain the unconsciously informs us that a particular movement might be worth the effort, is damaged. So, they can’t imagine movement will help them, or be worth what seems like a massive effort. This is why people such as Dr. Hageseth have an important message: as a physician, he knows what patients are taught about the illness; as someone who managed to get his symptoms under control, he is can show others how he did so.
"There are now probably thousands of people who have Parkinson’s Disease whose course has been improved by exercise. Perhaps Parkinson’s Disease will turn out to be a group of diseases, each with a different prognosis, some more susceptible to exercise than others. But so far, many can be helped with exercise, and whenever a single person is helped, the lives of that person’s relatives, friends and community is also affected for the better.”
The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge, MD Chapters 2, 3, 5, and 7 The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, MD Chapters 3, 5, and 8