• Patricia Faust

The Incredible Power of Neuroplasticity

Talking to people who only believe what they can see, taste, touch and feel can be very overwhelming. Because they don’t understand scientific research, they tend to deny the outcomes of this research. They want to believe what they understand even if it is completely false. So how can you get someone to understand that their brain is magnificent, and they can actually change their brain?

The fear of getting Alzheimer’s disease or losing memories ranks higher than the fear of getting cancer. No survivors, no successful treatment protocols and nothing showing promise of success in the near future has everyone panicking. Denial that this might be a possibility in someone’s life remains strong. Denial is a huge barrier to overcome. I usually start my presentations and discussions with a study rooted in science. It has come to my attention that most people don’t really ‘hear’ those outcomes. So, I now start with a story – something that everyone can relate to.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of our brain to change and adapt to our environment – good or bad. Neurogenesis is the growth of new brain cells. This is how we start to replace the brain mass that we are losing as we get older. We have the capacity to create a healthy, resilient brain through neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Our brain does not know how old we are. If our life is toxic, meaning full of chronic stress and bad lifestyle habits, our brain will age faster by losing neurons and neural pathways. We put ourselves at a high risk of developing dementia. But, if we lead a healthy lifestyle in a novel and complex environment, we continue to grow new neurons and neural pathways leading to a younger, high functioning brain. We can create an ageless brain!

In order to demonstrate how our brain works, I relate my experience in going back to school. I started my journey through graduate school when I was fifty years old. Now mind you, my classmates were twenty-five years old. They were at their cognitive peak and I was at my first acceleration point of cognitive decline. At this point my brain was working a lot slower – known as speed of processing – than when I was twenty-five. The first two weeks of school left me in a daze. I felt like a ‘deer in headlights’. When the professor was asking a question my classmates were answering far before I even figured out what the question was. I truly questioned my decision to pursue this degree. This was a novel and complex environment and even though I didn’t understand at the time, my brain was changing at a rapid pace. My brain didn’t know I was in my fifties! I excelled in school. It was one of the most challenging and highly satisfying times of my life. Later I learned that anyone is capable of changing their brain. This is what I do – I challenge others to evolve into their ageless brain.

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