Few people dispute that weight training changes muscle fibers.  A “98 pound weakling” can change his physique by regularly training muscles to promote their growth. The succinct statement by the Mayo Clinic maintains: “Weight training provides a stress to the muscles that causes them to adapt and get stronger.” In other words, muscles have “plasticity” because they respond to the demands of their environment.

The same concept is true of the brain, which can form new neural pathways and prune old ones. Neuroplasticity or brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to CHANGE throughout life. The brain has the amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections
between brain cells (neurons).  

Researchers with access to Magnetic Resonance Imaging study volunteers, so they can visualize these structural changes. Using MRI and fMRI scans, Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard has noted brain changes due to mindfulness, yoga, and meditation.  In another study the brains of medical students showed significant changes in their “grey matter”(posterior and lateral parietal cortex ) during an intense learning period.  Research subjects engaged in activities such as learning a new language, working as London taxi drivers or employed as professional musicians have shown changes in their brain structure due to the demands of their professions.

Moreover, these brain changes can occur in a relatively short period of time. Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. 

So, bodies and minds are “plastic.” Keep learning to continue that neuroplasticity at any age. 

Laura Maniglia