Neuroplasticity: • “the ability of the nervous system to change in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle ways” (Gazzinaga, Ivry & Manguin, 2002, p.611) The brain is plastic throughout life. Your brain is never too old to change.
• Neuroplasticity is the reason for stem cell research and stem cell transplants.• This is a controversial topic. • Why is it controversial? • What makes stem cells so important that some doctors and scientists are willing to engage in this controversial work? Remember: There is no clear right or wrong in controversial topics. Since they are important issues on which you will vote, it is important to discuss all sides.
Stem Cells• Are neurons that are yet to differentiate to specific, task- oriented behaviors.• Stem cells exist in adults, teens and children.• The largest number of stem cells however, are found in infants because the brain is at an early stage of development.
• If you transplant a stem cell it can learn the task that was previously performed by a damaged/destroyed neuron.• Ex. Of Use: Parkinson’s patients’ brain differentiate stem cells to make dopamine. The inability to make dopamine is the cause of this terminal illness.
Ex. Neuroplasticity & Perception• Have you ever heard that blind people hear better than sighted people?• Or that hearing impaired persons see better than those with average hearing?• Are these common beliefs fact or fiction?
Fact!• When a differentiated neural population is not used for its specific task, it learns new tasks.• The somatotopic maps in the brain are altered.
“Rules” of Neuroplasticity• 1. Highest rates of plasticity are during sensitive periods. Most of these are during childhood.• 2. Sensory neurons learn new tasks based on their somatotopic maps. Neurons are likely to learn the skills of neighboring neuron populations and not to learn skills from distant brain regions. 3. Structural plasticity is when neurons create newconnections/pathways. 4. Functional plasticity is when neurons do NOTchange their physical connections/presentation but activatefor different reasons.
References• Gazzaniga, M., Richard, I., & Mangun, G. (2002). Cognitive neuroscience: The biology of the mind. (2 ed.). New York, NY: W.W.Norton & Company.