It seems the latest edition of Time Magazine is a special on the brain, and there’s another full-length neuroscience feature article available online that discusses how the brain reorganises and ‘rewires’ itself.
This is known as ‘plasticity’ and neuroscientists often talk about the brain being ‘plastic’.
This doesn’t refer to the material, although does refer to the fact that the structure of the brain isn’t fixed and can change in response to learning or physical stresses.
For decades, the prevailing dogma in neuroscience was that the adult human brain is essentially immutable, hardwired, fixed in form and function, so that by the time we reach adulthood we are pretty much stuck with what we have….
But research in the past few years has overthrown the dogma. In its place has come the realization that the adult brain retains impressive powers of “neuroplasticity” – the ability to change its structure and function in response to experience. These aren’t minor tweaks either. Something as basic as the function of the visual or auditory cortex can change as a result of a person’s experience of becoming deaf or blind at a young age. Even when the brain suffers a trauma late in life, it can rezone itself like a city in a frenzy of urban renewal. If a stroke knocks out, say, the neighborhood of motor cortex that moves the right arm, a new technique called constraint-induced movement therapy can coax next-door regions to take over the function of the damaged area. The brain can be rewired.
There’s also an interactive timeline of discoveries in psychology and neuroscience.
Link to Time article ‘How The Brain Rewires Itself’.