Plasticity and functional recovery of the brain after trauma


Plasticity and functional recovery of the brain after trauma

Brain plasticity

  • The brain is plastic in the sense that it has the ability to change throughout life
  • During infancy, the brain experiences a rapid growth in the number of synaptic connections it has, peaking at around 15,000 at 2-3 years (twice as many as there are in the adult brain)
  • As we age rarely used connections are deleted and frequently used connections are strengthened- this is called synaptic pruning
  • Originally thought this only occurred in the developing brain. Adult brain was believed to be fixed and static in terms of function and structure
  • More recent research suggests that at any time in life existing neural connections can change, or new neural connections can be formed from learning and experience (plasticity)

Research into plasticity

  • Eleanor Maguire
    • Studied the brains of London taxi drivers and found significantly more voulme of grey matter in the posterior hippocampus than in a matched control group.
    • This part of the brain is associated with the development of spatial and navigational skills
    • The longer they had been in the job, the more pronounced was the structural difference
  • Draganski
    • Imaged the brains of medical students three months before and after their final exams
    • Learning induced changes were seen to have occurred in the posterior hippocampus and the parital cortex

Functional recovery of the brain after trauma

  • Following injury or trauma, unaffected areas of the brain are often able to adapt and compensate for those areas that are damaged
  • The functional recovery that may occur in the brain after trauma is another example of neural plasticity
  • Healthy brain areas may take over the functions of those areas that are damaged…


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