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That we have a plastic brain is now mainstream thinking. Yet it was only thirty years ago that medical students were still being taught that the brain was hard-wired, incapable of change. The concept is not new, neuroscientists knew about plasticity from around the 1960’s, but it has taken a while for the idea to be accepted.

Neuroplasticity relates to the fact that your 86 billion neurons are constantly adapting and rewiring themselves in response to the stimuli they receive from our environment. This is what has contributed to our evolutionary success. When conditions have changed, so have we.

What’s more, because this is a natural physiological process, it is available to us across the trajectory of our entire life span. Better still you can harness this plasticity to your brain’s advantage to upgrade your thinking habits, to continue to take in new learning and develop new skills.

Neuroscience is now being increasingly incorporated into the workplace and the education system because of the obvious benefits:

•    In education, learning and development: it provides the means to understand how the brain best likes to learn.

•    In change management, it has revealed how to overcome our natural resistance to change that is often seen as a threat.

•    For teams it has led to greater understanding of what leads to greater collaboration

•    It has also led to knowing what it takes to produce effective leaders who know how to influence and persuade.

Plasticity is natural and normal. It also has a couple of spurts of increased activity in early childhood and in teenagers.

We more we use our brain, the more we stimulate its natural plasticity. This is why being life longer learners, encoding new memory and experience helps to keep your brain in good shape as we age. Our experiences shape our brain.

Plasticity also occurs after injury. Realising this has revolutionised for example how those who have suffered stroke are managed. It used to be thought that any improvement would only occur in a six-week period. We now know that recovery can take months or years, so ongoing rehabilitation programs are leading to far better level of recovery of function.

Your brain is plastic, dynamic and constantly rewiring itself. You can choose to upgrade your brain at any time because,  “you can train your brain to change your mind.”


Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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