Neuroplasticity is the ability of the human brain to change as a result of one's experience, and to reorganize and recover after injury.It occurs in the brain under three primary conditions: Experience independent– the genome develops some neuronal connections independent of any experiences, experience expectant - brain relies on specific input for normal development, and experience dependent- the brain organizes itself in response to an individual’s experiences.Plasticity is also referred to as 1. Developmental Plasticity wherein changes in neural connections occur as a result of interactions with the environment 2. Adaptive Plasticity -which represents the brain’s ability to compensate for lost functions due to brain damage,and adjustment to new experiences.Several mechanisms contribute to this ability including overproduction and deletion of neurons and synapses, and activity-dependent stabilization of synapses. The activity-driven changes in synaptic efficacy modulate spine morphology; numerous molecular regulators affect alterations in the underlying actin cytoskeleton.
Neuroplasticity exhibits a heterochronous cortex-specific developmental profile and is heightened during "critical and sensitive periods" of pre and postnatal brain development. Plasticity is maximum in early childhood, but some amount of plasticity is present in the brain throughout life. Environment and experience play a key role in influencing plasticity and can actually change both the brain's physical structure and functional organization. Rich environments lead to bigger brains than impoverished environments. At times the plasticity can become maladaptive and may be associated with some neurological disorders.
Neuro-rehabilitation in early childhood is based mainly on the principles of plasticity. Environmental enrichment, repetition of tasks with skill training,that lead to re-organization of cortical networks help children in regaining lost function; this is evident in children with congenital hemiplegia and acquired stroke. Further insights into the molecular basis of neuroplasticity are likely to help improve outcomes from brain injuries.
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