Tip #728: Ten Fundamentals of Neuroplasticity
“Plasticity dials back ‘ON’ in adulthood when specific conditions that enable or trigger plasticity are met.” Dr. Sarah McKay
Neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change and grow, is a popular topic these days. According to Dr. Michael Merzenich in his book, Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life, there are ten core principles necessary for neuroplasticity. [Note: This information is drawn from a post by Debbie Hampton in The Best Brain Possible, so any quotes not ascribed to Dr. Merzenich are Ms. Hampton’s]. https://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/the-10-fundamentals-of-rewiring-your-brain/
- Change is mostly limited to those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. This is why it is so important for trainers to design programs that encourage immediate buy-in to the importance of the content.
- The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse) the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change. This speaks to the need to engage participants in challenging but not impossible learning activities, as opposed to spoon feeding them information.
- What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. This reinforces the importance of practice and involving as many senses as possible at the same time.
- Learning-driven changes in connections increase cell-to-cell cooperation which is crucial for increasing reliability.
- The brain also strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time. In other words, “This allows your brain to predict what happens next and have a continuous ‘associative flow.’”
- Initial changes are temporary. “It only becomes permanent if your brain judges the experience to be fascinating or novel enough or if the behavioral outcome is important, good or bad.” This is in part why adult learning principles suggest using novel approaches to gain participants’ attention and focus.
- The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world. According to Merzenich, “You don’t have to move an inch to drive positive plastic change in your brain. Your internal representations of things recalled from memory work just fine for progressive brain plasticity-based learning.” That is why we build on positive transfer, the memory of learning that occurred in prior experiences that support new learning.
- Memory guides and controls most learning. “As you learn a new skill, your brain takes note of and remembers the good attempts while discarding the not-so-good tries. Then it recalls the last good pass, makes incremental adjustments, and progressively improves.”
- Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize- and reduce the disruptive power of-potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.” “Each time your brain strengthens a connection to advance your mastery of a skill, it also weakens other connections of neurons that weren’t used at that precise moment- erasing some of the irrelevant or interfering activity in the brain.”
- Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. “We have a ‘use it or lose it’ brain.”
So it’s not surprising that learning and neuroplasticity are interconnected for positive changes in the brain.
May your learning be sweet.