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May 06, 2008

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Dave

Neuroplasticuty. Interesting term...let's define it;)

Neuroplasticity (variously referred to as brain plasticity or cortical plasticity or cortical re-mapping) refers to the changes that occur in the organization of the brain as a result of experience.

A surprising consequence of neuroplasticity is that the brain activity associated with a given function can move to a different location as a consequence of normal experience or brain damage/recovery.

The concept of neuroplasticity pushes the boundaries of the brain areas that are still re-wiring in response to changes in environment. Several decades ago, the consensus was that lower brain and neocortical areas were immutable after development, whereas areas related to memory formation, such as the hippocampus and dentate gyrus, where new neurons continue to be produced into adulthood, were highly plastic.

Hubel and Wiesel had demonstrated that ocular dominance columns in the lowest neocortical visual area, V1, were largely immutable after the critical period in development.

Critical periods also were studied for language and suggested it was likely that the sensory pathways were fixed after their respective critical periods. Environmental changes could cause changes in behavior and cognition by modifying the connections of the new neurons in the hippocampus.

Decades of research have now shown that substantial changes occur in the lowest neocortical processing areas, and that these changes can profoundly alter the pattern of neuronal activation in response to experience.

According to the theory of neuroplasticity, thinking, learning, and acting actually change both the brain's functional anatomy from top to bottom, and its physical anatomy.

A proper reconciliation of critical period studies, which demonstrate some functional and anatomical aspects of the neocortex are largely immutable after development, with the new findings on neuroplasticity, which demonstrate some functional aspects are highly mutable, are an active area of current research.

Canadian psychiatrist Norman Doidge has called neuroplasticity "one of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century.

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