Ep. 008 – What Is Neuroplasticity?

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Happy Labor Day to our U.S.-based listeners, and welcome to Episode 008 of the Train Your Brain Podcast with Dr. Michael Trayford. This podcast is published every single day with the intent to teach you how to train your brain 365 days a year for a sharper mind.

Every Monday we bring you a full, 30-minute episode that includes a tip that’s designed to improve the function of your brain. And then Tuesday through Sunday, we release five-minute shows that each consist of a tip for a healthier brain.

In Episode 008, Dr. Trayford gives us an in-depth lesson on what neuroplasticity is and what it isn’t. As we proceed along this journey, we’ll learn how the brain functions and learns, so that we can more effectively train it.

If you have any concerns regarding the information and applications discussed in this podcast, please consult your physician and a doctor who is experienced in functional neurology. Michael Trayford DC, DACNB is available for consultation by calling (828) 708-5274. Thanks for listening.

Put simply, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and grow throughout time, dependent on its environment. The brain is a sensory driven organism. This means that it thrives and survives and works based on the input it receives. The brain essentially is a relay station, the information coming in influences the information going out. So, we want to make sure our brain is wired in the best way possible.

There is a brilliant quote from the father of modern neuroscience, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, which said “Any man can, if he so desires, be the sculptor of his own brain.”

Cajal said that at the turn of the last century when most everything we knew about the brain came from external evaluation of the skull, physical examination and cadaver studies. In fact, Cajal was one of the first people to really study brain cells under a microscope and lay a foundation for brain science upon which we continue to build. The conventional wisdom at that time was that your brain was hardwired and what you had at birth was what you had for for the rest of your life.

In recent decades, we have learned that the brain is capable of change and in many cases enormous change! Neuroplasticity is the key concept for everything we talk about with regard to brain training.

The picnic game exercise is just one of many examples of effective brain training. In this case, for working memory. The game is played with two or more people. It starts out with the first person saying something like “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing an apple,” or something that starts with the letter A. The second person says they’re going on a picnic and they’re going to bring an apple and something else that starts with the letter B.

The game continues on with each person reciting the items in the list and then adding an item that starts with the next letter of the alphabet. When you expand it out through the alphabet and you get to the letter Z it can actually be rather complicated.

There are two points to this game. In my opinion, working memory and short term memory are very well connected. Short term memory is where you hold onto a piece of information for a brief period of time. If that information is worth committing to long term memory, it will do so based on repetition or importance.
Importance is related to something happening that has significant impact. For example; if someone was hit by a car in a hit and run accident and they got the license plate number as the car drove off. They typically remember this without repetition due to the importance of catching the bad guy and making certain it doesn’t happen again.

The picnic game exercises working memory. Working memory is a completely different animal, yet it is still connected to short term memory. It helps you hold onto small amounts of information, while you are doing something else; a critical skill for humans to navigate everyday life!

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