Brain plasticity, also known as neuroplasticity, is the ability of the neurons to alter their form or function in response to the environmental stimulation. Neurons operate in the brain’s circuitry along with other neurons; they can alter their function by changing the way they respond to inputs or influence other neurons through the strength of synaptic relationships.
Neuroplasticity is essential for the development of brain circuits and differences in these circuits make an individual. The human brain matures slowly, and thus neuroplasticity plays an essential role in brain development in response to the changing environment. Brain plasticity is also responsible for acquiring knowledge, skill, and repairing brain circuits in case of injury. While the brain of a mature person remains plastic, however, in children, neuroplasticity role in brain development is exceptionally impressive. A short period of sensory loss can have a long-term effect on the child which is the reason that zika virus is considered dangerous as it affects the natural brain development in the womb.
Neuroplasticity also enables the brain circuits to adapt to different phases of life. For example, songbirds can come up with new songs due to the change in their neural circuit in response to the breeding season. In human beings, during puberty, brain circuits adapt to the changing hormones, and thus brain plasticity mediates sexual behavior. Later in life, brain plasticity also moderates paternal and maternal behavior.
Neuroplasticity occurs in the brain circuits because of the changes to neural connections. New connections are formed, and connections that are not used are lost. Also, existing connection may increase or decrease their effectiveness. This help in repairing brain injury as well. Lastly, neuronal growth and death also occur. For example, in songbirds, neuronal size and complexity may increase in the brain circuit that mediates sexual behavior in the breeding season, and once the season is over, the neuronal structure becomes less effective purposefully.
In short, brain plasticity enables the brain circuits to adapt to the environment by changing neuronal connections. The neuroplasticity helps in many functions like in brain development, learning, adapting to life phases, and brain repair.