Neuroplasticity is not the same as Learning.

movement neuroplasticity Jun 17, 2024
child on a cliff with arms outstretched

New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done. 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing. 3) I knew it was a good idea all along!
– Arthur C. Clarke

 

From Skepticism to Superpower: Witnessing the Brain's Remarkable Plasticity

As a movement specialist, I've spent my career working with the brain in a very literal sense. But early in my practice, I encountered a different kind of movement – the revolutionary idea that adult brains could actually change their structure and function. Back then, it felt like science fiction! 

When I would introduce the concept, I  was met with a mix of reactions. The average person either embraced it with wide-eyed wonder or dismissed it entirely (and thought I was a wacko.) In my clinic, women often expressed genuine excitement ( If it works, I'll take it!) while men tended to be more skeptical. (Explain until I'm convinced please.) It became a running joke – I'd constantly tell people, "You don't have to believe it works. Just try it and see the results for yourself!"

 

First Learning, then knowledge.

This initial resistance revealed to me a surprising truth: how little we truly understand ourselves. It was like we were all walking around with magnificent, intricate instruments, completely unaware of their full potential for creating beautiful music. It was disheartening to have to convince people of their own inherent potential, and the potential for growth within their traumatized children.

Thankfully, those days are over. Today, it's widely accepted that our brains can continuously form new connections, called synapses. These connections can weaken in some areas and strengthen in others, much like adding or removing friends on social media.

But this goes far beyond simple learning. Neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to reorganize itself, allows for something much more profound. Imagine a map of the brain where a specific region once controlled elbow and shoulder movement. Through retraining, this map can be expanded to include hand control as well.

Think of it this way: retraining the brain is like a land developer rezoning a historic district into a vibrant mixed-use community. The somatosensory cortex, the area responsible for touch perception, can literally be "rezoned" to incorporate new territory. Even the visual cortex, dedicated to sight, can be reprogrammed to receive touch signals.

The brilliant pianist and neuroscientist Manfred Clynes coined the perfect term for this phenomenon: "cyborg." We are essentially working with a powerful pattern-generating brain that can be reprogrammed, if we understand its code.

This isn't just about strengthening existing connections; it's about a dynamic reshaping of the brain's landscape. This remapping can be triggered by both external experiences and our own intentional efforts. Putting the concept of neuroplasticity into action unlocks the true potential of our brains, transforming them from instruments of limited auto-function into limitless sensory perception learning organs.

Neuroplasticity is not just a fancy word for learning. Neuroplasticity is a change in the structure, functions and connections in the brain, and this change can be for the better and for the worse. Learning describes the process that can set that change in motion. 

If you want to experience a change in your brain (which includes your body!) for the better, step into one of our self study NeuroMovement learning programs!

 

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