Plasticity and functional recovery of the brain

  • Plasticity and functional recovery of the brain:
  • AO1:
  • Brain plasticity:
  • During infancy, the brain expereinces a rapid growth in synaptic connections, peaking at about 15,000 at age 2-3 years (Gopnik et al). As we age, rarely used connections are deleted and frequently used connections are strengthened - synaptic pruning. It was once thought these changes were limited to childhood, but recent research suggests neural connections can change or be formed at any time, due to learning and expereince. 
  • Maguire et al found significantly more volume of grey matter in the posterior hippocampus in London taxi drivers than in a matched control group. This part of the brain is linked with the development of spatial and navigational skills. As part of their training, London cabbies take a complex test called 'The Knowledge' to assess their recall of city streets and possible routes. This learning expereince appears to alter the structure of the taxi dirvers' brains. The longer they had been in the job, the more pronounced was the structural difference. 
  • Draganski et al imaged the brains of medical students three months before and after final exams. Learning-induced changes were seen in the posterior hippocampus and the parietal cortex, presumably as a result of the exam. 
  • Functional recovery of the brain after trauma:
  • Functional recovery of the brain after trauma is an important example of neural plasticity - healothy brain areas take over functions of areas damaged, destroyed or even missing. Neuroscientists suggest this process occurs quickly after trauma (spontaneous recovery) and then slows down - at whioch point the person may require

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