Neurogenesis and Neuroplasticity: Similarities and Differences
The human brain, once thought to be static, is now known to be highly malleable and has the ability to reorganize its pathways and create new connections in a process known as neuroplasticity. The plasticity of the brain is its capacity to modify its dendritic branches into different forms and adapt in accordance with different experiences. Neurogenesis, on the other hand, is the brain process of creating new brain cells, or neurons, which allows for the possibility of neuroplasticity and stronger neural connections. In the rest of this article, we’re going to review neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change and adapt with input and repetitive use. When we complete an action over and over again, the connections between brain cells begin to fire repetitively and eventually become stronger and faster with regard to that particular action or piece of information.
There are two types of neuroplasticity; the first is structural neuroplasticity. This describes the brain’s capacity to change already existent neural connections. Functional neuroplasticity, the second type, describes the permanent changes in neurons as a result of learning and development. Neuroplasticity is extremely important because it gives us the direct ability to continuously learn over the course of our lives.
With every lesson, we are potentially connecting new neurons and rewiring our brain’s structure. This process is stronger in children, and like most functions and structures of the human body, it changes as we age. This is why people often say that it is easier to learn new things as a child. The way that neuroplasticity supports learning is an example of how our brains can also be rewired to react differently to other stimuli that are presented. This adaptive ability allows the brain to restructure itself in order to recover after an injury. Because neuroplasticity is more pronounced when we are younger, children are able to recover from injury more quickly and more effectively than adults and geriatrics, though neuroplasticity does not stop at any age.
Neurogenesis is the creation of new neurons, or brain cells, which was believed to decline drastically shortly after birth. It was originally assumed that brain cells only decayed throughout life, but we understand now that neurogenesis does not cease after a certain age. The most significant difference between neurogenesis and neuroplasticity is that the former describes the formation of new neurons while the latter refers to the brain’s own ability to reorganize itself by creating new connections. Neurogenesis is especially important in instances of injury or illness. However, studies are now showing that neurogenesis takes place throughout our lifetime and simply slows down as we age.
Neurogenesis is an extremely complicated subject that is still being studied. Neural stem cells present to a specific region of the brain and proliferate into new neurons and supporting cells. There are many intrinsic and extrinsic factors that affect this process, specifically in adults. Some examples of these factors outside of aging are neuroinflammation, stress, and brain injury. Neurogenesis is also affected by the excessive consumption of sugars, fats, alcohol, and opioids. With that information, it could be argued that healthy lifestyle changes could have a significant effect on cognitive function and the preservation of neurogenesis. Stress is potentially one of the most important factors because it alters homeostasis significantly, oftentimes without the individual even being aware of it. There are still a number of questions surrounding adult neurogenesis and the scope of an adult human’s brain to continue to create new neurons throughout a lifespan and especially following brain damage.
Neurogenesis and neuroplasticity refer, by definition, to entirely different concepts that often act independent of each other. However, it is also true that in some situations, they have the ability to function together synergistically. They both describe processes occurring in the brain and aid in cognitive recovery after damage and the concept of neuroregeneration, which is the repair of nervous tissue. Both processes are extremely important in human brain development and function, as well as in treating brain injuries or impairments.
re-origin is aiming to help anyone that may be able to benefit from the seemingly infinite possibilities that exist through neuroplasticity. The fact that we now know that neurogenesis and neuroplasticity indeed do not halt after childhood is encouraging, and we can use this information to improve the quality of life for ourselves and others. In addition to a science backed neuroplasticity training program, our community offers exceptional resources surrounding brain training and neuroplasticity as a whole.