Sunday, November 27, 2011

Activity Dependent Plasticity

A cool feature of the brain is its capacity to undergo changes based on activity-dependent functions, also called activity-dependent plasticity. Its ability to remodel itself forms the basis of the brain’s capacity to retain memories, improve motor function, and enhance comprehension and speech amongst other things. It is this trait to retain and form memories that is functionally linked to plasticity and therefore many of the functions individuals perform on a daily basis. This plasticity is the result of changed gene expression that occurs because of organized cellular mechanisms. The brain’s ability to adapt toward active functions has allowed humans to specialize in specific processes based on relative use and activity. For example, a right-handed person may perform any movement poorly with their left hand but with a lot of practice with the less dominant hand can make both hands just as able. Another example is if someone was born with a neurological disorder such as autism or had a stroke that resulted in a disorder, then they are capable of retrieving a lot of their lost function by practicing and rewiring the brain in order to incorporate these lost manners. Thanks to the pioneers within this field, many of these advances have become available to most people and many more will continue to arrive as new features of plasticity are discovered.

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