Everyone knows the importance of keeping their body healthy; websites like Pinterest have sections dedicated to health, workout sensations Shawn T. and Billy Blank are making cardio workouts fun, and even the Food Network has changed their shows to cater to a healthier lifestyle. However, brain health doesn’t have the same publicity and many people forget the importance of keeping their mind healthy. Alzheimer’s has affected over 35 million people worldwide in 2009 with that number projected to increase exponentially over the next 40 years.
Improving neuroplasticity may be the answer to preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s and keeping the brain healthy. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s lifelong capacity to change and rewire itself in response to the stimulation of learning and experience. Often associated with connections between neurons, neuroplasticity allows the brain to constantly strengthen itself, much like how muscles grow as they are worked out.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor talks about the power of neuroplasticity in her remarkable TedTalk “Stroke of Insight” where she tells her story of recuperation after a stroke left her without speech.
Another example of Neuroplasticity is Alvaro Pascual-Leone‘s experiment at Harvard Medical School which measured the function of an individual’s cortex. After five days, practicing piano for two hours a day, the volunteers were tested on the melody they had been practicing. What Pascual-Leone saw, was that the motor cortex responsible for finger movement when playing piano, grew taking over some of the surrounding brain area. What Pascual-Leone observed was synaptogenesis and neurogenesis, the formation of synapses between neurons, and the ability to create neurons respectively. What his experiment showed was that the brain could be rewired and “worked out”, much like the body’s muscles.
Do you think improving neuroplasticity and brain health will help the growing number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s?