Plasticity theory refers to recent discoveries about the human brain which are nothing less than amazing to this old Boomer, born in 1948.
Neuroscientific dogma until recently taught us that our brains grew for a few years, and then it was done. We had all we were going to have, and it did not change much, in fact, it began to disappear until our capacities and facilities began to disappear with it. Heaven forbid you did any drinking, which hastened the deterioration.
But then along came Michael Merzenich at Posit Science, whose work undid all that previous knowledge.
It turns out that our brains are changing all the time, real time, within minutes, based on what we are asking our brains to do.
The more novel learning experience that you give to your brain, the more it develops new connections between synapses, which is a very good thing for keeping your thinking and attentional capacities available throughout the life span.
But what is plasticity? Well, neurons have axons and dendrites and they are constantly checking out connections with neighboring dendrites and axons and neurons. If you supply your brain with new tasks like a new language, a new career, a new hobby, learning a new musical instrument, or a computerized brain fitness program, for example, your brain will form and keep many new neuronal connections.
Because Boomers like myself are getting to our 60's, there is a tremendous market developing around the concept of brain fitness, and a number of computer based programs which are touted to sustain brain fitness for seniors.
If you do not have time to learn a new language, or take up a new career, then one of the computer based programs may be just the ticket for the novel learning experience which inspires your plastic brain to reconnect and rewire.
Michael Merzenich, Ph.D. says that the computer based program must supply the right kind of challenge in the right way to be effective. In other words, the level of challenge must increase and one must be able to score the correct answer about 80% of the time. His Brain Fitness program challenges the neurons in the auditory system, and the designed result is that those neurons begin to fire in a timely manner again, and reconnect and rewire, which helps us Boomers remember words, and sort conversation from surrounding noise better, both of which help us feel efficacious and competent.
I have been using three of the computer based programs including the Brain Fitness Program since last August (2008) and with the Brain Fitness Program, I found that my memory and attention for the other two were much better.
Brain plasticity is really challenged by the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, which is based on research about one year old, utilizing something called the dual n back task, which increases fluid intelligence, which is the kind of intelligence I bring to new problems which need new solutions.
For example, for me to read another counseling book might increase my body of crystallized intelligence, but would do nothing for my learn how to play guitar intelligence. The Mind Sparke will help with that, and I really enjoy the Mind Sparke tool. My brain tingles in a good way after a practice, and believe me you can make the challenge as big as you can.
The last plasticity theory software that I have experience with is the Lumosity tool. Lumosity is quick and easy to use, so I keep it booted up on my computer and use it between phone calls and chores at the office. I can take a break and challenge my brain at the same time. Try it out. The one thing it will not do apparently is mke me a better speller.