Most people who follow brain science and its practical applications have at least a elementary knowledge of neuroplasticity. For those who want to expand their knowledge, a good resource was sited in education guru Daniel Willingham's blog. From Neuroplasticity--what's up with that?:
You hear a lot of talk these days about neural plasticity--that is, changes in neural structure and connectivity. Wouldn't it be great to have an article that provides a nice overview of the different types of neural plasticity?
Dr. Willingham then links to just such an article and, since the article is behind a paywall, pulls out a couple of highlights.
First, they [the authors] offer this wonderful table that summarizes different varieties of changes to the brain.
Second, the authors provide a list of learning effects that have been associated with neuroplaticity in animal models and in humans.
He includes in his blog post both the table and the list. Click to read his post and view table and list.
I have read the article and include for you here the Abstract and an excerpt from the Summary.
Twenty years ago, the prevalent view in Psychology was that although learning and the formation of new memories are lifelong occurrences, the neural changes associated with these events were all in the existing receptors. No new neural hardware, from synapses to neurons, was thought to appear after a protracted period early in life. In the past 20 years, another view has supplanted this one, showing that although the juvenile period is especially suited to neuroplastic adaptation, there is hard neuroplastic change later in life as well. We review a selection of evidence for this view from both animal and human models, showing how it reflects three principles of neuroplasticity: (1) earlier and later experience-induced changes to neuroarchitecture differ in degree more so than in type; (2) the types of experiences that lead to neuroplastic change narrow with age; and (3) differences in the amenability of neural circuitry to change result from basic differences in neuroarchitecture and neuroenvironment in different phases of development.
Excerpt from Summary:
We conclude with restating our three essential principles regarding neuroplastic change in the juvenile and adult periods:
1. Changes in the brain in early and later life occur at different levels and scales, with later changes only rarely involving new axons and dendrites, and instead involving changes to the synapse, new dendritic spines and axon boutons, myelination, and unmasking. When many such changes occur in concert, larger scale changes to cortical maps can occur in adulthood. The other exceptions to this principle are neurogenesis, which is particular to the hippocampus and olfactory bulb, and axonal change in response to extreme changes in sensorimotor input.
2. Passive exposure can bring neuroplastic change early in life, but in older organisms, paying atten- tion is key to neuroplastic change. In addition, neuroplastic change later in life is more apt to appear if the stimulus gradient changes in small increments.
3. The reason for the differences in levels of plasticity in the juvenile and adult periods is the molecular and neural environments that make them more amenable to structural modifications in young brains. Periods of neuroplasticity can be extended or replicated later in life with methods that somehow restore the early molecular environment.