Neuroscience Research

Our understanding of the human brain has changed dramatically over the past few decades.  Until about the 1970s, the scientific community largely believed that the brain was only “plastic,” or changeable in early childhood, and was then “set” for the rest of one’s life. 

However, the world of neuroscience has been flipped on its head.  Decades of research now show that many aspects of the brain remain changeable throughout one's lifetime.  These studies demonstrate that substantial changes occur in the lowest neocortical processing areas, and that these changes can profoundly alter the pattern of neuronal activation in response to experience.  Neuroscientific research now indicates that experience can actually change both the brain's physical structure (anatomy) and functional organization (physiology).

This is GREAT NEWS! 

As a result of this new realization, three terms have emerged as driving concepts in the world of neuroscience:  Neuroplasticity, Cognitive Reserve and Neurogenesis.

  • Neuroplasticity - also known as brain plasticity, is an umbrella term that describes lasting change to the brain throughout an animal's life course.  It is the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.  Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease, and to adjust their activities in response to new situations, or to changes in their environment.  Simply put, the brain adapts, and changes itself, based on input from the body, and from the environment.

  • Cognitive Reserve - describes the mind's resistance to damage of the brain.  In other words, it is the idea that mental exercise, social interaction, and brain-stimulating activities, like cognitive training, can build up “reserve”, thereby helping to stave off declining memory, thinking, and cognitive function.  Think of it as your brain’s way of paving extra side routes, in case there is an accident on the main highway.

  • Neurogenesis – is the process by which neurons are generated from neural stem cells and progenitor cells.  We now know that neurogenesis can occur throughout ones life.  Learning new things, proper diet, some forms of exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can all enhance neurogenesis.

 

What does this mean to you…

  • Your brain is always changing/adapting based on how much, and in what ways, you challenge your brain each day, as well as your exercise and sleep habits, diet, ability to manage stress, and social interactions. 

  • You can help direct the way your brain changes!  Your brain is constantly trying to improve itself.  You can help your brain thrive, by engaging in targeted cognitive exercises, specific physical exercises and a healthy lifestyle.  The choice is yours!

The articles and studies below are just a sampling of the latest research in the world of neuroscience. 

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Heart Rate Variability

Heart Rate Variability Training and Why You Should Be Doing It

Stephen Davies

"Training your heart rhythm and breathing and thus creating consistent HRV is linked with better physical and emotional health and can reduce cortisol levels, reduce anxiety, reduce high blood pressure,, increase mood, improve physical stability, and improve cognitive and memory performance."   

Relaxation Techniques: Breathing Helps Quell Errant Stress Response

Harvard Medical School

"We can't avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them. ."

The Surprising Connection Between Heart Rate and Wisdom

Dorothy Tengler

"researchers now believe wisdom is a matter of both heart and mind, touting that fluctuations in our heartbeats may, in fact, affect our wisdom."

Breathe. Exhale. Repeat: The Benefits of Controlled Breathing

Lesley Alderman, NY Times

 "Controlled breathing, like what you just practiced, has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system". 

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Proprioceptive Training

Neurocognitive Reaction Time Predicts Lower Extremity Sprains and Strains

Gary Wilkerson, University of Tennessee

"Reaction time measured by a computerized test of neurocognitive function appears to be a good indicator
of elevated risk for lower extremity sprains and strains"

An 8-week Reactive Balance Training Program in Older Healthy Adults

Max Paquette

"A recent review of the literature on risk factors for falls in older adults indicated that gait changes and poor balance ability are among the major fall risk factors."

 

~ Journal of Sport and Health

The Relationship Between Neurocognitive Function and Noncontact Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries

Charles Buz Swanik, PhD, ATC, Tracey Covassin, PhD, ATC, David J. Stearne, PhD, ATC, Philip Schatz, PhD

"Neuromuscular control is influenced by sensory information from proprioceptive, kinesthetic, visual, and vestibular sources, as well as cortical and spinal motor commands." 

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3D Visual Tracking

Study: Healthy Older Observers Show Equivalent Perceptual-Cognitive Training Benefits to Young Adults for Multiple Object Tracking

Isabelle Legault, Rémy Allard, and Jocelyn Faubert

"Data support the notion that learning in healthy older persons is maintained for processing complex dynamic scenes."