Neuroplasticity is the theory that the brain has the capacity to change and reorganise itself at any age and after any type of damage. Norman Doidge explains this theory in his international bestseller, The Brain that Changes Itself.1
Traditionally, western medicine has assumed that the brain changes very little after childhood and that it is difficult or impossible to repair a damaged brain. It compares the brain to a computer that can’t change its programming, or recover deleted data. Neuroplasticity takes the opposite view:
‘[Doidge]...outlines the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Through numerous case studies, he describes stroke victims who have learned to move and speak again, senior citizens who have sharpened their memories, and children who have raised their IQs and overcome learning disabilities, among others. The science, he predicts, will have ramifications for professionals in many fields, but especially for teachers of all types.2
To think of the brain as a ‘plastic’ or flexible organ allows the possibility that it can change, grow and repair itself through carefully designed exercises. An increasing number of researchers now accept this view.
Neuroplasticity is also called ‘brain plasticity’ or ‘brain malleability’.
Notes and references
- Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (James H. Silberman Books) (2007). Doidge’s book has topped the book charts in Australia, USA and Canada. As Oliver Sacks explains in his review,
‘Here he describes in fascinating personal narratives how the brain, far from being fixed, has remarkable powers of changing its own structure and compensating for even the most challenging neurological conditions. Doidge’s book is a remarkable and hopeful portrait of the endless adaptability of the human brain.'
- ‘The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph From the Frontiers of Brain Science’. In Education Week, March 21, 2007