The Role of Lifestyle in Brain Plasticity
To say that the brain is extraordinary would be a massive understatement, and even today researchers continue to discover significant information regarding how the brain operates. We understand now that the lifestyle an individual follows can have a considerable impact on their brain’s function, especially when it comes to plasticity. Plasticity is the brain’s ability to relearn certain things and to form new neural connections. It was originally believed that neural plasticity stopped when someone reaches their mid-twenties, but we now know that the brain never truly stops adjusting and changing. Today we are going to take a closer look at how lifestyle choices can affect the brain’s neuroplasticity potential, and which ones have the biggest impact on it, as well.
The Connection Between Lifestyle and the Brain
Lifestyle is a highly individual topic, and everyone of course has their own preferences when it comes to things like diet, activity levels, and sleep. Facing things like injuries, illnesses, and eventual old age can take a toll on cognitive abilities, and it can of course also affect the body’s physical function and abilities. It’s understood within the neuroscience community that “neurons that fire together, wire together.” This implies that the brain forms strengthened connections through repeated stimuli, meaning that we can use neuroplasticity to our advantage through our lifestyle choices. Cristy Phillips at Arkansas State University explained in her research that when it comes to neuroplasticity, two of the biggest and most influential lifestyle factors are diet and exercise.
How Neural Plasticity is Affected by Lifestyle
There are certain facets of someone’s life that can play a direct role in the brain’s neuroplasticity capabilities and working towards improving any of these areas can aid in the production and support of new and strengthened neural pathways. Listed below are some of the most prominent lifestyle factors that play the largest role in brain plasticity.
There have been numerous studies conducted on the association between exercise and cognitive function. There is ample evidence that suggests that consistent exercise throughout one’s life can significantly decrease the likelihood of developing cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s later in life. Physical activity has the ability to promote the growth of neural pathways in primary cortical regions within the brain.
We all know it’s important to maintain a healthy diet that is abundant in different vitamins and nutrients, but you may not be aware of just how much of a role the diet one consumes can play on brain plasticity. Foods that are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids (think avocadoes, blueberries, and nuts) can offer the most cognitive support. Neurons are very sensitive to oxidative stress and the brain utilizes a large portion of energy each day to function properly, so providing it with the best nutrition is imperative.
Chronic stress is not only degenerative to the brain after some time, but the entire body, as well. Constantly being in the fight-or-flight response mode means that the body has heightened cortisol levels which negatively affects the brain’s ability to form new neural pathways. Stress can also cause deterioration in the dendrites (projections in a neuron that receive information).
It has been shown that inflammation throughout the body has direct effects on cognitive function and can even act as a catalyst for degeneration. Inflammation can accumulate through poor diet, lack of exercise, and heightened stress, so maintaining all of these elements and supporting the immune system will allow for an individual to use neuroplasticity to their advantage and to have a better mind-body connection.
The positive news is that the above factors are all under our control and can be improved upon if necessary. Making lifestyle changes is more than just doing or eating something beneficial once in a while, but instead consistently and with the intention to better yourself through your mental, physical, and emotional health. It can be overwhelming to suddenly have all these lifestyle alterations you wish to make, but just taking it a little at a time and working towards an overall healthier lifestyle is all you need to do – you will certainly reap all the rewards in due time.
The fact that the brain has neuroplasticity potential and that we have such an increased understanding of it today provides us with so much power to take our health into our own hands. No one is perfect with their lifestyle choices all the time, and it’s important to relax and enjoy things that might not necessarily be the best for us health-wise from time to time. Overall, making lifestyle decisions that support the mind and body will drastically pay off in the long run if you ever want to use neuroplasticity to your advantage.
The re-origin platform and team aims to guide its members with comprehending neuroplasticity better as a whole and to show them how it can be incorporated into their everyday lives so that the quality of life and health is optimal. Working to calm the nervous system subsequently helps with improving mood, which is when neuroplasticity is at its most effective level. Mainly, re-origin offers a science based self-directed neuroplasticity training program and supporting community with group coaching calls to give you everything you need to begin retraining your brain and reclaiming your best health today.