Neuroplasticity is a non-particular term describing the brain and nervous systems capacity for experience dependant re-organization and malleability of structure and function.
The brain is able to rearrange and reconfigure its vast network of circuitry, constantly creating new neural pathways of communication and re-routing existing connections in response to new information, sensory stimulation, development, damage or dysfunction thereby retaining the ability to adapt to varied environmental input. A foundational principle of how neuroplasticity operates rests on the concept of synaptic pruning which refers to the brains neurological self-regulatory processes that can occur throughout its lifespan, beyond the ”critical period” of early childhood as a means of continuity and efficient brain function. Inefficient, damaged or unused neurons or synaptic pathways will be dimmed or deleted and both new connections and configurations created, or existing highly routed information rich neuronal highways will be maintained, fortified and become more pronounced in synaptic representation.
For example, if one hemisphere of the brain is damaged, the unscathed hemisphere will compensate for the loss of function, re-wiring its circuitry forging new bonds with usable unaffected neurons and effectively assume some of the duties of the maimed hemisphere, however for those connections to take they must be stirred by activity.
The three generally accepted forms of plasticity are;
1. Developmental plasticity (learning)
2. Activity dependant plasticity (memory/intensive practise)
3. Injury induced plasticity (recovery)
This remarkable pliability is not confined to a specific area of the brain nor does it consist of a singular chemical or electrical event, rather it is the result of numerous complex processes occurring on a variety of tiers, from learning coaxed cellular adaption to cortical re-mapping reactive to injury or dysfunction and it is here friends, that we shall take a knee.
The primary motor cortex (M1) is responsible for generating the neural signals controlling execution of voluntary movement. Neuroimaging of M1 has shown considerable activity-dependent plasticity implicated with motor-skill learning and cognitive motor actions (Sanes and Donaghue, 2000; Monfils et al. 2005) although the underlying mechanisms are unclear.
Consider now all the wonderful capabilities of the human body and it’s fabulously intricate functional structure. Our bodies are designed to move a certain way and anything contrary to this is by nature a deleterious pattern that employs inefficiency and compensation on its way merrily into the arms of injury. It must be said, and has, that FORM MUST FOLLOW FUNCTION. By grooving abhorrent movements with repetition, the brain will soon map these patterns as ”normal” despite insult, further cementing dysfunction. The brain does not discern between poor and proper form, it will conform to task and prevail, body in tow, taking any road necessary abandoning movement quality for movement success.
At all times, move well.
”Neuroplasticity yields not to fire but, unfortunately, to time…”