A human brain consists of around 100,000,000 neurons, and for many years scientists believed that the amount we are born with are the most we will ever have. In other words, it’s all downhill from birth because neurons eventually die.
The old way of thinking was that our brain could not regenerate neurons and once they began to die, we would only end up with fewer nerve cells. Consequently, our cognitive performance would not get better, but would slowly decline, without any way of preventing it.
But it has now been discovered that that’s not the case.
What Is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity refers to the plasticity of the brain and its ability to modify itself, including the creation of new cells, throughout a person’s life. This is great news for anyone who wants to improve his or her mental faculties. For those who want to sharpen their focus and concentration, improve their memory, as well as their problem solving skills and overall intelligence, the existence of neuroplasticity means that the power of our brain is not fixed but is variable. It can be changed, sculpted, regenerated. In essence, it can be improved.
Neuroplasticity works in a few ways. Intense studying and learning is a neuroplasticity technique. When we study and focus our attention on something, it eventually becomes second nature to us.
Chess players who concentrate and focus on chess strategies soon find that the moves they make on the chessboard are more out of a habit than the product of intense thought. We call such occurring intuition.
But intuition is simply our modified brain: it has adapted itself to our learning. This is neuroplasticity. It is your brain bending to your will and reshaping itself according to your needs.
How Does Neuroplasticity Work?
Think of your brain as a dynamic connected power grid in which there are billions of pathways or roads lighting up every time you think, feel or do something. Some of these roads are well-traveled: these are our habits, our established ways of thinking, feeling and doing. Every time we think in a certain way, practice a particular task or feel a specific emotion, we strengthen this road and it becomes easier for our brains to travel this pathway.
When we think about something differently, learn a new task or choose a different emotion, we start carving out a new road. If we keep traveling that road, our brain begins to use his pathway more and this new way of thinking, feeling or doing becomes second nature, while the old pathway gets used less and less and weakens. That is neuroplasticity in action. It is activity-driven and follows the “use it or lose it” rule: frequently used synapses are strengthened, while rarely used connections are weakened or eliminated.
Nootropics have been speculated as being a good source to engineer neuroplasticity. Some of them, such as Piracetam, Noopept and Huperzine-A, have been known to boost our ability to learn and absorb new information, improving our brain’s plasticity and enhancing our cognitive performance. These nootropics have been found to assist with and increase nerve growth, and are particularly popular with students who have lots of information to take in under stressful times.
Of course, nutrition and exercise also play an important role in neuroplasticity. Many nutrients found naturally in food products have been shown to have cognitive enhancing effects. These include vitamins B6 and B12, Phenethylamine (found in chocolate), L-theanine (found in green tea) and caffeine, whose combined effects are being more extensively researched.