Brain plasticity

Your brain’s plasticity is your brain’s ability to change. Your brain can create new brain cells, form new connections and change the structure of existing connections. Your brain adapts to best suit the tasks it is presented with. This means that focused training of specific abilities can produce enhanced abilities. Below, you will find links to some interesting research papers that shed light on brain plasticity as well as short descriptions of their key findings.

Plasticity in musicians (Gaser & Schlaug, 2003)
A study of professional, amateur and non-musicians found that the grey matter (cortex) volume was highest in professional musicians, intermediate in amateurs and lowest in non-musicians in several brain areas involved in playing music, such as motor regions, visual input and object recognition.

Plasticity in bilinguals (Mechelli et al., 2004)
It seems that brain plasticity is a factor in learning a second language. Bilingual brains have a larger left inferior parietal cortex than monolingual brains. This part of the brain is known to be concerned with language, mathematics and body image.

Plasticity in taxi drivers (Maguire, Wool­lett, & Spiers, 2006)
London taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus than London bus drivers. The hippocampus is used to gather and process complex spatial information. The taxi drivers’ complex and ever changing routes through the city results in a greater need for navigational abilities than bus drivers who drive fixed routes. Their brains have thus adjusted accordingly.

Plasticity in students (Draganski et al., 2006)
This study scanned the brains of a group of German medical students 3 months before and right after an important exam. It then compared the scans to scans of students who were not studying for an exam. The students who were studying for an exam showed learning-induced changes in the parietal cortex and posterior hippocampus, regions known to be involved in memory retrieval and learning.

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