Neuroplasicity – What is it?


You CAN teach an old dog new tricks

Our brains learn at different levels, when one person could learn something quickly, another may take longer, and at a different task the reverse can be true.

The brain is always working, when we thought that at rest the brain would rest and we only used parts of the brain at once, science had it wrong, the brain is always functioning, even when we are resting.

When we learn something new, we change our brains, our behaviours also change our brain. Our brains change chemically, it transfers chemical signals between neurons, these are fast acting changes and are supportive of short term memory, another way is through structure, it changes the pathways within the brain and these are more long term learning and memory. For example if you have ever tried to juggle and feel that you have picked up a level of skill during that session, chemically you have learned that skill, but then go back and try it again after a while, you need to relearn and build up that skill level again because the structure did not change; where as if you practiced daily, then the skill set becomes part of the brain and you remain able to practice that skill because that area of the brain has grown and built that control function within the physical structure. The connection between these area of the brain increase functionality and are part of the way we as a person function. The ability to juggle, allows the hand eye coordination or physical control within that movement.

Just as someone who reads Braille, they have a higher functionality in the hand response and sensitivity, due to learning the skill.

In the same way as we learn physical skills, we learn behavioural, so by practicing certain behaviours, then they become part of the mindset, when they become part of the mindset, they become part of our functionality and the way we behave, and so the cycle continues. The expression of “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks” is so very wrong; we can all learn new things, all the time. This is not just about a new skill; it is about physical, emotional, psychological and even spiritual change.

The same can be said for the opposite too, what we don’t do, what we no longer maintain has an affect. We need to remember that we do forget experiences or activities that we do, not necessarily in the manner of forgetting how to ride a bike for example, but rather than we forget how we used to exercise regularly by doing so and therefore structurally and functionally our brains change.

We are the end product of our life experiences, memories and emotions, at the same time we change and develop continuously and this is the control that we have, by being able to choose what we wish to do, we can make changes within our lives, and we must continue to work and develop the areas that we appreciate and want, as well as those that we need.

The ‘Theory of Learning’ gives us 4 stages at which we learn, and is stated as:

  • Unconscious Incompetence – We don’t know what we don’t know
  • Conscious Incompetence – We become aware of what we need to learn
  • Conscious competence – We have to think about what we have learned
  • Unconscious Competence – What we have learned becomes second nature

When we begin to learn something new, we are completely unaware of what it is that we need to learn, once we start to learn and understand we begin to understand just what it is that we do need to learn, and once we do learn it, we still have to think about it as we do it, until we do it automatically. Whether it is learning to drive a vehicle for the first time or beginning to work with people, how we approach the skill and when it becomes second nature is part of this process. If you wish to use the skills that benefit you in your life, that help you succeed and become the better person, then you need to practice them, you need to consciously use them until they become second nature, and remember that when you no longer use them, then whatever it is you are using instead, is what is changing your behaviour, and that can be in a negative manner.

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