It was taught up until the early 2000s to health practitioners that the brain possessed a finite number of nerve cells and that these cells degenerate after childhood leading to cognitive decline. Research from Bryan Kolb and Ian Q. Whishaw in the 1998 Annual Review of Physiology stated, “ The brain monitors its environment continuously and responds accordingly. Many stimuli from the environment prompt the brain to make changes to working and reorganizing its structure. We call this brain plasticity and learning. We also know that it is possible to craft simple activities that will make the brain want to grow and repair itself. The brain can instantly and spontaneously create new tools for better functioning with minimal and precise stimulation.”
In short, your brain can grow and create new neural connections based upon the environment and stimulus given. The brain can also make unwanted neural connections based upon the same principle. Examples of a catalyst that creates negative plastic changes to the brain include injuries, traumas, emotional stress, and toxins. Once we are conscious of the basics behind how our brain operates, we can create an environment that allows our brain to change for the better. Once we change our brains, we can improve our lives because the brain controls everything within our body and interacts with others socially.
Steps to Changing your Brain
If you live a Max Living 5 Essential life, you are already taking adequate steps to improve neuroplasticity. If you are not familiar with Max Living, you can find the nearest Max Living doctor here: https://maxliving.com/locations/. Once we have developed a habit of living the 5 Essentials, we can use more advanced practices to enhance neuroplasticity further.
We must first have the desire to make changes to the brain to improve our central processing system. Once this desire has been expressed, we must set aside the time to make brain change a priority. If we fail to plan, then we are planning for failure. Our mind is used to our daily routines, and at first, adding a new stimulus will be a threat to our system. We will find excuses to procrastinate and live in a world where we are comfortable. Adding this new stimulus of will-power and using the mind to tell the body that we are going to change is developing new neural pathways leading to change.
Your brain also thrives with novel activities, like learning a new instrument, language, movement, sport, or topic. The brain wants further learning of new information and to make things happen—the simple act of visualizing or dreaming of the change you want to create shifts our neural circuitry. Visualizing who you want to become in the future creates new neural pathways, and neurons are signaled that recognize that future self. Dreaming makes us feel good because it establishes a spark within the brain’s emotional center called the limbic system. Once an emotion has been elicited, a chemical change has occurred within the brain, making the brain more susceptible to further positive change.
Neuroplastic changes occur not only in the brain but also within the entire central nervous system, including the spinal cord. Research has demonstrated that an illness, disability, or injury places a demand on the brain areas that supply neural signals to the parts insulted. For damages to be fully corrected, the nerve cells must undergo neuroplasticity normalization.
The first step is what the Pettibon Biomechanics Institute calls “pre-habilitation” and in Max Living is called “mix procedures” for the vertebral column. The activities include cervical traction and wobble cushion exercise. The mix procedure enhances the flow of oxygen and nutrition to the central and peripheral nervous systems and prepares the nerves to convey messages that decrease pain. The mix procedure also creates a change within the disc tissue, making the disc more fluid and making the spinal column more able to learn new movements. The more we practice mix procedures at home, the more we can change the brain’s neural pathways.
The next step and most crucial step to changing brain plasticity is the fix procedure called the chiropractic adjustment. The adjustment serves as a software update to the nervous system. Once the adjustment is delivered, a signal is sent from the zygapophyseal joints through the spinal cord tracts and then acts upon different brain areas. Once these brain areas are activated, a change happens within the brain that affects the stimulus’s perception. After the adjustment, the brain has an increased ability to respond to stimuli. If the brain is prepped to handle more triggers, more pathways can be recruited, leading to neuroplastic changes.
Oxygen and Exercise
The brain loves oxygen, and exercise helps to deliver oxygen to the brain. Activity triggers brain-derived neurotrophic factor release, which boosts cognition by increasing neurons’ ability to communicate. The best type of exercise will be novel movements that activate the cerebellum, dorsolateral frontal lobes, reticular activating system, and vestibular nuclei. The activation and interplay of these systems within the brain create a new cognitive map that allows the brain to develop new motor function pathways. Exercises that implement balance and multi-planar movements supply the most stimulus to the brain.
The advanced plan eating strategy improves brain function by decreasing inflammation and maximizing the energy factories in the cell called mitochondria. Nerve cells have a high concentration of mitochondria due to the high energy demands of the brain.
The brain is 60% fat, and the layer of cells that insulates each nerve fiber called myelin is made of fat. The myelin layer allows for nerve impulses to travel fast. Having healthy myelin allows for neuroplasticity to take place more efficiently. We need to focus on consuming healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids from wild-caught fish and grass-fed beef for the central nervous system’s health. Other healthy sources of fat come from avocados, coconuts, olives, and grass-fed butter.
Any toxins that can cross the blood-brain barrier will create inflammation and damage nerve cells. We will be covering neurotoxins at the upcoming workshop called Spring Cleaning on April 20th. Make sure you are registered to learn more about the impact toxins have on the central nervous system.