How to Increase Your Brain Plasticity

By Dr. Nicole Cain
Sep 16, 2018
12:03 pm

Today’s article is all about brain plasticity as it relates to your mood, emotional wellbeing and sense of personal empowerment!

We will discuss the following topics: 

    • What is brain plasticity?
    • How can I increase brain plasticity and improve my brain function?
    • How can brain plasticity relieve me of my psychiatric condition?
    • Our three favorite nutrients for brain plasticity.

 

What is Brain Plasticity?

Plasticity of the brain refers to our brain’s malleability or changeability. The outer layer, or cortex, of your brain is particularly adept at molding and changing based on its environment.

Those who have optimal brain plasticity enjoy the ability to change, adapt and learn throughout life. What’s particularly exciting is that your brain is continually changing and you can be intentional in changing your brain ways that relieve you of your psychiatric conditions, improve your memory, attention, and so much more!

 

How Can I Increase Brain Plasticity And Improve My Brain Function?

One way you can promote brain plasticity is through physical exercise. Research has found that older athletes are able to outperform their sedentary peers in cognitive tasks, executive functioning, memory tests, and adaptation. We have also seen that in addition to increasing brain plasticity, we see that exercise can actually prevent brain shrinking as we age. In many studies, adults who were more physically active, had greater brain volumes (Erikson, 2013). The prefrontal cortex and hippocampus areas of the brain were seen to be larger in size, stronger in function and therefore individuals who exercised enjoyed more emotional stability and better memories.

 

Another way you can promote brain plasticity is through meditation and relaxation. There are two types of meditation that studies have shown to increase brain plasticity: 

  1. FA (focused attention) 
  2. OM (open monitoring) 

 

Researchers have discovered that those who used FA and OM meditation techniques had thicker cortexes and increased gray matter (Slagter et al., 2011 & Tang et al., 2015). FA and OM are also shown to increase sustained attention and promote greater cognitive ability (Slagter et al., 2011).

 

How can brain plasticity relieve me of my psychiatric condition?

There are two main types of brain tissue: White matter and gray matter. White matter controls the speed at which you think and gray matter gives us our processing power. The gray matter area of your brain is profoundly important and just might be the mood-stabilizing-solution that you have been looking for. 

 

We see that those who have more gray matter are more able to regulate their emotions. For example, a fear response involves three primary parts of the brain: The prefrontal cortex, the midbrain and the brain stem. Each has its role in how we fully experience emotions, including fear. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for the fear-based thoughts, the midbrain is the seat of emotion, and the brain stem produces the physical sensations that may accompany fright. Gray matter is the pathway by which you will be able to integrate those brain areas and affect change over them. Mindfulness improves brain plasticity by expanding gray matter in your brain so you are able to mindfully change your emotional and biological reactivity. In short: Those with more gray matter are better able to control their mind and body. To read more about this check out the work of Dr. Dan Siegel.

 

Our Three Favorite Nutrients for Brain Plasticity

One more way you promote brain plasticity is through brain boosting nutrients. There are many but three of our favorite nutrients for brain plasticity include:

Phosphoinositide: This promotes the “signal transduction system” in the brain which is the primary means for communication in the central nervous system. Phosphatidylinositol has been shown to promote brain signaling and is useful in not only diseases like depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia, but it has also been demonstrated to be effective in Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease (Pacheco et al., 1996).

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): DHA promotes optimal cognition during development, adulthood, and aging (Weiser et al., 2016).

Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha): Ashwagandha is an herb that exerts a beneficial influence on the brain, the immune system and nervous system. It is anti-inflammatory and reduces stress, as well as being antitumor, antioxidant, and is rejuvenating. It modulates the immune system, and balances the endocrine system, cardiovascular system, pulmonary system, and central nervous systems (Mishra et al., 2000).

 

Decreasing memory and cognitive ability doesn’t need to be a reality! Your brain is always changing and can change for the better if you give it the right tools.

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References

McEwen, B. S. (2016), In pursuit of resilience: stress, epigenetics, and brain plasticity. Ann. N.Y.

Acad. Sci., 1373: 56-64. doi:10.1111/nyas.13020

Slagter, H.A., Davidson, R.J., Luts, A. (2011). Mental training as a tool in the neuroscientific

study of brain and cognitive plasticity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 5: 17. doi: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2011.00017

Pacheco, M.A., Jope R.S. (1996). Phosphoinositide signaling in human brain. Prog.

Neurobiology, 5:(2-3), 255-73. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8971982

Weiser, M.J., Butt, C.M., Mohajeri, M.H. (2016). Docosahexaenoic Acid and Cognition

throughout the Lifespan. Nutrients, 8(2), 99. doi: 10.3390/nu8020099

Mishra, L., Singh, B.B., Dagenais, S. (2000). Scientific Basis for the Therapeutic Use of

Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha): A Review. Alternative Medicine Review, 5(4), 334-346. Retrieved from https://fitoterapia.pl/upload/fitoterapia/Ashwagandha-wlasciwosci-chemicne-i-terapeutyczne.pdf

Michelon, P. (2008, February 26). Brain Plasticity: How learning changes your brain. Retrieved

from https://sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/02/26/brain-plasticity-how-learning-changes-your-brain/

Erickson, K.I., Gildengers, A.G., Butters, M.A. (2013). Physical activity and brain plasticity in

late adulthood. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 15(1), 99-108. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3622473/

Tang, Y., Holzel, B.K., Posner, M.I. (2015). The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nature

Reviews: Neuroscience, 16(4), 213-225. doi: 10.1038/nrn3916