Brain is a complex phenomenon that can change in the process of life. This capacity of the brain to change is called brain plasticity. There are a number of factors that influence brain and lead to its changes. In their article “Brain Plasticity and Behavior”, Kolb, Gibb, and Robinson explain the nature of brain plasticity, consider the possible factors that lead to brain change, and arrive to the conclusion about the importance of studying brain plasticity.
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Researchers estimate that capacity to change is one of the key characteristics of nervous system including brain. As a result of change in nervous system, brain is also changed, and so is behavior. Brain plasticity may lead to change in behavior both in normal and abnormal way. The nature of brain plasticity lies in the fact that behavior changes in response to certain alterations that occur in brain circuits. Those alterations are usually measured with the technique suggested by Camillo Golgi and allowing to estimate differences in synapses located in certain regions of brain.
As a result of studying brain change, it has been found out that experience is one of the leading factors that affect brain plasticity. Research shows that this experience can be both prenatal and postnatal. In addition, there is a whole range of other factors that have a significant impact on the neuronal structure and behavior. Among those factors are psychoactive drugs, gonadal hormones, and anti-inflammatory agents; growth, dietary, and genetic factors; certain diseases; stress; brain injury and leading disease (Kolb, Gibb, & Robinson 2).
When scientists conducted research of various age groups affected by the same factors, they discovered important qualitative differences in neuronal structure change between young and adult sample. Certain prenatal and postnatal experience had a clear long-term impact on neuronal structure as well. It was also noticed that different factors influence neuronal structure in different ways and to a different extent.
The results of research led scientists to several important conclusions. It has been shown that experience leads to changes in brain, and those changes are different for different age groups. Changes occur as a result of both prenatal and postnatal experience and may become obvious already at the adult stage of life. It is remarkable that seemingly similar experiences can lead to different consequences and changes in behavior.
Those behavior changes are results of alterations in neural circuits. And last but not least, for the best results the therapy that is aimed at correcting certain behavior should be constructed in such a way that it also alters corresponding brain circuitry. Therefore, when treating certain diseases, methods of screening brain circuitry can prove to be efficient since they help to predict behavioral models and alter them accordingly.
Together with achieving certain results, the study raises a number of significant issues that still require an answer. It is unknown exactly how various experiences alter behavior; whether brain plasticity is unlimited and permanent; whether there exists certain interaction between different plastic changes; and whether some plastic changes lead not only to normal but also to disordered behavior.
Those are the vital questions that require more in-depth research. When answers are obtained to those questions, it could be possible to work out solutions for treating a whole range of behavioral and psychological disorders and improve the lives of millions.
Kolb, Bryan, Robbin Gibb, and Terry E. Robinson. “Brain Plasticity and Behavior.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 12.1 (2003): 1–5. Print.