Sunday, October 17, 2010

How the brain is organized?

The four lobes (frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital) of the brain are each responsible for different functions of the body. The right and left hemispheres of the brain control opposite sides of the body. Sensory information travels up to the brain via the spinal cord where it is processed. The thalamus relays this sensory information (except smell) to the cerebral cortex, this information is then send to different parts of the brain. When sensory information gets process a motor response is given to specific body parts.

So, what is neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change within the environment and to store information in memory associated with learning. Plasticity is a part of normal functional development in the brain from the time of birth to maturity.  Neuroplasticity happens by learning new skills or past experiences throughout the lifespan.

Norman Doidge on the brain and neuroplasticity

How neuroplasticity works?

“Neuroplasticity occurs in the brain under two primary conditions:
1.     During normal brain development when the immature brain first begins to process sensory information through adulthood. In stages of normal development the brain goes through a transition from childhood when it is able to learn and make new connections easily, to adulthood when it is a bit more settled in its structure, but can focus on a single problem for longer and carry out more complex thought processes this is called “synaptic pruning”. This synaptic pruning happens in adolescence when the body is making the transition from childhood to adulthood.
2.     As an adaptive mechanism to compensate for lost function and/or to maximize remaining functions in the event of brain injury. These mechanisms that are involved in neuroplasticity stand out as important contributors to the developing brain’s ability to acquire new information, change in response to environmental stimulation, and recover from injury [Johnston et al., 2009].”

What does this mean for the plasticity of a child’s brain when compared to an adult?

If a child receives an injury to the left frontal lobe of the brain before adolescence, the right frontal lobe which is undamaged takes over the function of the left frontal lobe which is now damaged and lost its functions. On the other hand, if an adult where to receive the same injury in the same area of the brain, the lost of function may be more severe because the brain has lost the plasticity to transfer the functions of that part of the brain to the other. 

The Phenomenon of Neuroplasticity