The Amazing Plasticity in the Brain

| 1 Comment

The most interesting part of Psychology so far has been the chapter on Biological Psychology. To think that a small, three pound organ in our head can be so advanced and is able to change and adapt as we develop is truly fascinating. The brain's ability to change and grow as we develop is called plasticity. According to the Lilienfeld textbook, there are four different kinds of plasticity that the brain can undergo. The first is the growth of dendrites and axons. Dendrites and axons both help a neuron function as dendrites receive signals and axons send signals to other neurons. The brain can also form new synapses, which are spaces that allow neurotransmitters to travel between neurons. Thirdly, the brain can get rid of neurons that it no longer needs, a process called pruning. Finally, the brain is able to insulate axons using myelin sheaths, which protect axon's signals.
So plasticity is extremely important because it allows our brains to be sharp and to function at its best. But what fascinates me the most is the brain's ability to change shape and create new connections. I found a video that is a perfect example of plasticity in the brain (found below). Jodi's hemispherectomy was performed in order to remove her entire right hemisphere in the hopes of limiting her seizures. Miraculously, Jodi was able to function with one hemisphere. Because of plasticity, her left hemisphere began making connections to the fluid that had taken the place of her right hemisphere when it was removed. The fact that the brain has the power to repair itself to such a degree at a young age is amazing. However, plasticity is not magical, so it cannot cure diseases such as Alzheimers or Parkinsons. The brain is also not able to heal itself completely after experiencing major head trauma. I can't help but wonder how far plasticity can actually go, and what its boundaries are. Also, if Jodi were an adult at the time of her surgery, how much would the results differ?
Through this class, I hope to gain knowledge that I can apply to my future career in Nursing. Understanding psychology will allow me to assess my patient's needs better, allowing me to be more successful. By the end of this course, I expect to obtain a greater appreciation for psychology, and its effects on human life.

1 Comment

That's a really interesting, which is not surprising, as plasticity is fascinating. Sadly, though, plasticity is not infinite; it can't compensate for everything. From what I have learned, Jodi will probably grow up suffering some sort of deficits (cognitive as well as physical, which we saw), though she's perhaps too young now to show many cognitive deficits. There's just no way one can lose half of the brain and not suffer a little; there would not be enough cortex to do all of those higher functions. And the story only gets worse with age: if Jodi had been an adult at the time of her surgery, the deficits would be great and the improvements minimal. Such is the story of plasticity--remarkable yet sad.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by olso6155 published on September 26, 2011 11:55 AM.

Nature vs. Nurture, the Mystery was the previous entry in this blog.

Assignment 1 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.