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Brain plasticity.. what is it and why is it suggested that the brain is plastic?

Brain plasticity is a really important part of modern day psychology. It is the concept that our brain is malleable and depending on the things that we learn and engage in on a regular basis. So if you regularly play tennis, drive a car, do yoga or play computer games you will strengthen the connections in the brain in the area's that are being used and strengthen that area of the brain. This was originally developed by Hebb in the 1950's who suggested that the brain makes an "engram" when new connections are made. This was then disregarded in science, and then later has been has been reignited in the 2000's as brain scans have come around and helped scientists learn more about the brain and connections.

Research by Maguire found that taxi drivers who took the "Knowledge" test as they learnt all of the roads around London, (without sat nav) developed a larger hippocampus area of the brain than those who did not study the brain as part of their training! An area of the brain based on memory and planning had become larger through the intense studying the taxis drivers had carried out!

This is important to us when learning new skills as it shows that repetition and learning at any point of our life can improve our brain health and help us strengthen the connections in the brain as we develop new skills.

However it also has the reverse effect, if you have bad habits such as negative thinking or reliance on a drug or habit, the areas in the brain linked to these thoughts and habits are strengthened and reinforced. So here is the learning from the research, positive thoughts count and help improve our own thoughts and mindset, which we can change ourselves over time!

Here is my take away message for today's simple focus task; Thoughts matter - catch those negative thought and replace with positive/kind thought to yourself.


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