Neuroplasticity, learning and more “neuromatch” for everyone

TThe brain is a malleable organ that can change and adapt throughout our lives.

This ability is called neuroplasticity and it allows us to learn and acquire new skills, recover from brain injuries, and adapt to our environment. However, as with anything in life, there are several factors that can affect the extent to which our brains can change, including age, experience, and genetics.

Interestingly, during early postnatal life, our brains are very receptive to the acquisition of new information. This critical period is like a window of opportunity for us to soak up knowledge and develop basic cognitive skills.

Get your mind ready now!

Neurons are connected, but did you know that they don’t actually touch?

Instead, tiny gaps called synapses allow electrical and chemical signals to pass through.

But now it gets really fascinating: When we are born, every nerve cell in the cerebral cortex has about 2,500 synapses. During the first few years of life, however, our brains go through an explosive growth and development phase, during which new synapses are formed and the number increases to a whopping 15,000 per neuron by the age of three!

However, this rapid growth cannot be sustained forever.

As the brain continues to develop and mature, the number of synapses gradually decreases. This process, known as synaptic clippinghelps optimize our brain’s functions by eliminating unused or unnecessary connections and strengthening commonly used connections.

Even though the brain becomes less plastic as we age, that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to learn and grow, especially in response to challenging and engaging activities.

However, it’s important not to get carried away with the hype surrounding neuroplasticity. Just as we can’t expect to lose weight in two days, we can’t expect our brains to undergo massive changes after “two days of cognitive training to prevent dementia.”

However, let’s shift our focus away from neuroplasticity and consider how our society values ‚Äč‚Äčlearning.

Accessible learning opportunities are essential to enable everyone to reach their full potential. The rise of the digital age and online learning platforms have presented a tremendous opportunity to make education accessible to all, regardless of geographic, social and financial barriers. However, despite the increasing availability of online education, there are still significant challenges in accessing resources.

This is where organizations like neuromatch Come in.

By providing online learning opportunities and resources that are accessible to all, Neuromatch helps break down barriers to education and create a more equitable learning environment.

Through its online conferences and online summer school programs, Neuromatch has grown to over 20,000 participants over the past three years with the help of a team of nearly 930 volunteers, and its academy courses have trained over 10,000 scientists from more than 100 countries.

This is a real-life example that making education accessible to all is not only desirable but also feasible.

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This article was created for Brain Awareness Week 2023 along with other articles I will be posting this week. My goal for this week is to pique your curiosity, share valuable knowledge, inspire, and raise awareness about factors that can impact our brain health.

Do you want to stay up to date? Follow me on Medium! Let’s delve into the fascinating world of the brain together.

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Reference:

Park, DC, & Bishop, GN (2013). The Aging Mind: Neuroplasticity in Response to Cognitive Training. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 15(1), 109-119.

Pascual-Leone A, Amedi A, Fregni F, & Merabet LB (2005). The plastic human cortex. Annual review of neuroscience, 28(1), 377-401. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144216

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