What is Neuroplasticity? - Definition & Concept

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  • 0:02 What Is Neuroplasticity?
  • 0:35 How Does Neuroplasticity Work?
  • 1:59 Neuroplasticity's Role…
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Cobarrubias
In this lesson, we will look at what neuroplasticity is and how it works. We will also explore up-and-coming research that shows how neuroplasticity can help individuals with depression.

What Is Neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity, also called brain plasticity, is the process in which your brain's neural synapses and pathways are altered as an effect of environmental, behavioral, and neural changes. When it comes to neuroplasticity, the brain is a lot like film. When you photograph a picture, of say, a mountain, you're exposing the film to new information. It reacts to the light, and its makeup changes in order to record the image of that mountain. In the same way, your brain's makeup changes when it's exposed to new information, so that it may retain that information.

How Does Neuroplasticity Work?

The process of neuroplasticity isn't a quick or simple one; rather, it takes place throughout your lifetime and can involve many processes. Along with altering your neural synapses and pathways, it can involve changes to your neurons, vascular cells, and glial cells. Neuroplasticity also occurs hand-in-hand with synaptic pruning, which is the brain's way of deleting the neural connections that are no longer necessary or useful and strengthening the necessary ones. How your brain decides which connections to prune out depends on your life experiences and how recently connections have been used. In much the same way, neurons that grow weak from underuse die off through the process of apoptosis. In general, neuroplasticity is a way for your brain to fine-tune itself for efficiency.

Neuroplasticity happens continually as you learn and memorize new data, and as your brain develops; however, it can also be spurred by a physical trauma. In such cases, neuroplasticity serves as an adaptive mechanism that allows someone to compensate for function loss after suffering a bodily injury. For example, if someone suffers a brain injury, neuroplasticity allows the brain to 'rewire' itself in order to restore or maximize brain functioning by rebuilding neural circuits and allowing an uninjured part of the brain to take over the damaged part.

Neuroplasticity's Role in Depression

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