In simple terms, neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to grow and change. Changes to the brain occur over time and allow individuals to adapt to new situations or changes in their environment . Neuroplasticity is sometimes referred to as brain plasticity; reinforcing that the brain can be molded, like plastic. This is great news because it means that our brains are designed to change throughout our lifetime. Changes in the brain can be structural, such as differences in size, shape, and density. Changes can also occur to the organizational function of the brain. This means that new connections can be made within the brain, and that existing connections can be strengthened .
How Does Neuroplasticity Relate to Real Life Situations?
Changes to the brain can occur in response to a single event, such as a brain injury. When part of the brain is damaged, neuroplasticity allows for an intact area of the brain to take over some of the functions of the damaged brain area . In effect, one area of the brain compensates for the area that no longer functions. This compensation is useful for individuals who have lost all function of a particular brain area(s).
In less extreme cases, the principles of neuroplasticity can be applied to weak brain areas. For example, just as all people exhibit a variety of physical traits that can be seen, each brain is also unique. Each human brain has different strengths and weaknesses. Weak brain areas, also referred to as areas of weak cognitive function, can result in a variety of learning challenges. The underlying causes of learning difficulties can be addressed by strengthening weak areas of the brain.
Compensation Vs. Strengthening
There is an important distinction between compensation and strengthening. In layman’s terms, compensation involves one part of the brain completing a task for a weak or damaged area of the brain that has a limited ability to perform that specific function. In a way, it is the brain taking the path of least resistance. Brain strengthening is described as taking specific intentional action to improve a weak or malfunctioning area of the brain to address the underlying cause. Importantly, brain strengthening exercises can be of benefit to anyone, but life-changing gains in cognitive function can be seen in people with learning difficulties.
The Arrowsmith Program specializes in assessing each individual to identify the specific brain areas that need to be strengthened. Each student receives a personalized set of cognitive exercises to target their particular learning challenges. The program is suitable for children, adolescents, and adults – all of whom are able to benefit from the principles of neuroplasticity.
Here’s a video from Perth Brain Centre explaining neuroplasticity:
Sources Shiel, W.C., Medical Definition of Neuroplasticity. Medicinenet. 2019-05-15. https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=40362  Arrowsmith School. Neuroplasticity. 2019-05-15. https://arrowsmithschool.org/neuroplastic/