Neuroplasticity How Experience Changes Your Brain!


Colorado Springs Senior Center Life Long Learning

Posted on

Dec 19, 2022


Colorado - Colorado Springs

There is a common phrase that most people have heard and repeated many times, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  With the research of today, we now know that this is simply not entirely true. Old dogs can learn new tricks! Your brain has a remarkable way of mastering new skills, whatever your age. Newer research has shown that the brain never stops changing in response to learning.

You may or may not have heard the buzz regarding brain neuroplasticity that has been growing in the last decade. So, what is it? Why is it important? What can you do in order to improve your own neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity is a broad umbrella term that refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt due to experiences. Neuroplasticity allows nerve cells to be malleable, change, or adjust. However, the brain is not infinitely malleable. Damage in critical areas of the brain such as movement, speech and cognition can result in deficits in those areas. While some recovery may be possible, it is simply not possible for another area of the brain to take over those functions.     

Benefits of neuroplasticity include, but are not limited to:

-          The ability to learn new things

-          The ability to enhance existing cognitive capabilities

-          Recovery from strokes and traumatic brain injuries

-          Strengthening areas where function is lost or has declined

-          Improvements that can boost brain fitness and enhance memory abilities

What can you do to help enhance neuroplasticity? Check with your local Senior Center to see what classes are offered that can encourage your brain to adapt and change.

-          Travel and explore new places to expose your brain to new environments and open up new pathways in the brain.

-          Create art. Be creative and engage in oil painting, watercolors, acrylics, sewing, gemstone faceting, and more!

-          Physical activity and Dancing.

o   Find an exercise class that suits your current activity level. Check your local Senior Center for offerings like Silver Sneakers classes, Zumba, Swimming, Yoga, Pilates, Taijifit, Flyswatter Volleyball and more!

o   Get up and dance! There is a variety of dance classes suitable to all!

o   Try a sport that challenges hand eye coordination like ping-pong, pickle ball, racquetball, or even juggling.  For an extra challenge to strengthen the connectivity between neurons, use your non-dominant hand to play!

-          Get adequate sleep.

-          Learn how to play an instrument.

-          Learn a new language.

-          Reading Fiction. This can increase connectivity in the brain as well as expand vocabulary, which activates the visual, auditory, and memory processes.

-          Intermittent fasting. Research has shown an increase in synaptic adaption, promotion of neuron growth, improvement with overall cognitive function, and the decreased risk of neurodegenerative disease. Always consult with your physician to see if intermittent fasting is appropriate for you.


About the author:

Sara Tucker, MA, CTRS is the Director of Senior Programs at the Colorado Springs Senior Center. Sara has degrees in Therapeutic Recreation and Recreation Administration. Prior to joining the Senior Center, Sara was a clinical Recreation Therapist specializing in neurological rehabilitation.  If you have any questions, please call Sara at 719-955-3400.

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