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What is Neuroplasticity?

Updated: May 4, 2022

Put simply, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and grow throughout time, dependent on its environment. The brain is a sensory-driven organism. This means that it thrives and survives and functions based on the input it receives. The brain essentially is a relay station, the information coming in influences the information going out.

What is Neuroplasticity?

So we want to make sure our brain is wired in the best way possible.

There is a brilliant quote from neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal that said, “Any man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain.”

Cajal said that at the turn of the last century when most everything we knew about the brain came from head to toe physical examination. In fact, Cajal was one of the first people to really study brain cells under a microscope. The conventional wisdom at that time was that your brain was hardwired and what you had at birth was how your brain would be the rest of your life.

In recent years we have learned that the brain is capable of change. Neuroplasticity is the key concept for everything we talk about in regards to brain training.

The picnic game exercise is just one of many examples. The game is played with two or more people. It starts out with the first person saying something like “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing an apple,” or something that starts with the letter A. The second person says they’re going on a picnic and they’re going to bring an apple and something else that starts with the letter B.

The game continues on with each person reciting the items in the list and then adding an item that starts with the next letter of the alphabet. When you expand it out through the alphabet and you get to the letter Z it can actually be rather complicated.

There are two points to this game – improvement in working memory and short-term memory, which are very well connected.

Short-term memory is where you hold onto a piece of information for a brief period of time. If that information is worth committing to long-term memory, it will be based on repetition or importance. Repetition is somewhat obvious where you do something over and over again until it becomes learned (e.g. playing the guitar).

Importance is related to something happening that has a significant impact. For example, if someone was hit by a car in a hit and run accident and they got the license plate number as the car drove off.

The picnic game exercises primarily working memory and secondarily, short-term memory. Working memory helps you hold onto small amounts of information while you are attending to something else, and is often the first aspect of memory impairment in certain types of dementia.

Contributor Author: Dr. Michael Trayford is a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Founder of APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC. For additional information, and to learn more, please visit our Author's page. The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts- that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice, please consult your doctor.

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