What is Neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change its structure and function in response to new information or challenges. This is a good thing: It means we can learn and grow our brains!

Some examples of this include re-learning a lost skill, learning a musical instrument, or practicing mindfulness. Other examples involve the formation of new neurons and neural pathways.


The brain’s capacity for neuroplastic growth, recovery, and adaptation is stronger in children and younger adults, but it can be triggered at any age. It can help repair damage, reroute old connections, and strengthen new ones. There are two main forms of brain plasticity: structural and functional.

Structural changes are when the brain physically grows new pathways and structures. This is usually due to trauma or disease, but can be triggered by daily activities like practicing new skills or learning languages. It is also seen in a phenomenon called “use-dependent” plasticity, whereby losing one sense triggers the heightening of other senses.


During certain times in our lives, our brains are more sensitive to the impact of our interactions and experiences—especially during the early years. That’s why babies pick up so many skills so quickly.2

Learning a new language, working out at the gym to improve your fitness, practicing mindfulness, even playing a creative instrument like piano can all promote neuroplasticity, Mushtaq tells mbg.

Functional plasticity allows us to retrain and redirect the pathways of our brains. Structural plasticity actually changes the physical structure of the brain, such as increasing the density of synapse connections or growing certain regions of the brain. This is what happens with psychotherapy, which is thought to help correct impairments in structural plasticity related to mental health conditions like depression and PTSD.


Attention is the brain’s ability to focus on certain things. It’s why we can continue to learn new activities, skills and languages well into old age. It’s also one of the key factors behind our ability to adapt, even after a stroke.

Neurologically, it’s thought that attention impacts the receptive field of neurons and changes neural synchrony across different brain areas. It can also impact how different bottom-up features are prioritized in a visual scene, which helps us to identify objects.

In machine learning, it’s commonly implemented in sequence-to-sequence models (also known as encoder decoder models). It works by highlighting specific encoded vectors in the input sequence.


The brain is designed to grow new structures and pathways in response to a challenge or injury. This is known as neuroplasticity.

This is why we can learn new skills and activities, even into old age. It’s also how we can retrain our bodies after a sports injury, or overcome depression and anxiety by changing dysfunctional patterns of thinking and behaving.

We can boost our neuroplasticity by engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as solving puzzles, reading or doing mindful breathing. This helps to improve focus and strengthen the connections between neurons. In addition, neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells) can occur in some regions of the mature brain.


Learning a new song on the piano, remembering a friend’s name or working out directions to your destination are all examples of how we use neuroplasticity to learn. Our brains are always changing, even as adults, whether it be anatomically (growth of neurons and axon sprouting) or functionally (neurons that fire together wire together).

This is why stroke patients often have a remarkable recovery from their injuries; the affected part of their brain can make up for missing function by reorganizing undamaged connections between intact neurons. Neuroeconomists and researchers in reinforcement learning have combined to develop a framework for creativity, which is based on the tonic and phasic activity of the locus coeruleus system.

Stress Reduction

Over the last two decades, researchers have discovered that stress affects learning. It enhances memory formation, but impairs memory retrieval — important factors when it comes to taking exams or meeting deadlines in school.

A variety of strategies can be used to reduce stress and help people learn. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are all good places to start.

Practicing mindfulness meditation, yoga and other techniques can also be helpful. Ultimately, the health realization/innate health model of stress suggests that it is the nature of one’s thoughts that determines their response to potentially stressful external circumstances, rather than the actual circumstance itself.

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