Essay Sample on Psychology: Neuroplasticity

Published: 2023-11-15
Essay Sample on Psychology: Neuroplasticity
Essay type:  Definition essays
Categories:  Psychology Intelligence Behavior
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1630 words
14 min read

The human brain remains one of the most fascinating things, not just in the human body but in the entire world. Scientists have been trying to understand the structure and functionality of the human brain for thousands of years, with a considerable amount of progress. Part of that progress is the ability of the brain to adapt to various stimuli. Scientists discovered that the brain could remodel itself and reorganize itself in response to various situations such as injury, and disease. It is that remodeling and reorganization capability that’s referred to as neuroplasticity. According to Demarin and Morovic (2014), the concept of neuroplasticity is one of the most important discoveries in science, even though it is quite new. The concept of neuroplasticity changed the way humans understand the workings of the human brain. The process takes place through the reorganization of the brain neurons hence allowing the formation of new neurological pathways and the destruction of others. Therefore, neuroplasticity is responsible for the acquisition and changing of skills and behavior among animals as well as mental illnesses and brain decline.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

History of Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity history dates back to the late 19th century through the work of William James. James suggested the theory of neuroplasticity in his work Principles of Psychology (Demarin and Morovic, 2014). James had argued that the brain and its functions do not remain constant during adulthood. James’ ideologies were largely neglected because they challenged the historical understanding of the brain functions. The brain was considered non-renewable, and for James’ suggestion that changes proceed throughout adulthood would change the understanding of the human body. However, James concepts would gain attention several years later in the mid-20th century when polish scientist Jerzy Konorski would suggest a theory where “neurons have been activated by the closeness of an active neural circuit, change and incorporate themselves into that circuit” (Demarin and Morovic, 2014, p. 209). It was the first time someone had tried to define neuroplasticity, and more scientists jumped on the bandwagon to try and understand the concept. A Canadian psychologist known as Donald Hebb established Hebb’s rule, which implied neurochemical changes in one neuron could stimulate the neighboring simultaneously synapses. The rule sets the basic principles of synaptic plasticity.

It would take American neuroscientist Paul Bach-y-Rita to demonstrate neuroplasticity using actual cases. Bach-y-Rita used people who suffered vestibular damage to demonstrate that the healthy parts of the brain can take over the functions of the damaged parts (Demarin and Morovic, 2014). It was the first time the concept of neuroplasticity was being used in the treatment procedure, and it marked the beginning of thorough research into the medical application of neuroplasticity. That was the case with Edward Taub, who not only supported but also developed the appropriate real-world treatments for patients with brain damage. Taub had used rhesus monkeys to prove his point that tying up half of the body forces the other half to heal faster. Michael Merzenich would later design software that would help people with learning disabilities using the concept of neuroplasticity. These scientists pushed against the academic conviction that disapproved of the existence of neuroplasticity. According to Demarin and Morovic (2014), it was not until the 1990s that it became acceptable to use the term neuroplasticity in prestigious journals.

Types of Neuroplasticity

The changes and reorganization of the brain come in two different forms. There are structural changes and functional changes.

Structural Neuroplasticity

Structural neuroplasticity, also sometimes referred to as synaptic plasticity, is the changes within the brain synapsis. In their discussion of the impact of mood disorders on the brain, Christopher Pittenger and Ronald S Duman perform a literature review of studies that elucidate the mechanisms contributing to the pathophysiology of depression (Pittenger and Duman, 2008). Pittenger and Duman found that mood disorders are some of the factors that influence neuroplasticity. Synaptic neuroplasticity includes changes in the dendritic spines as well as other concomitants of synaptic connections such as strength between neurons and electric meeting points between brain cells (Pittenger and Duman, 2008; Demarin and Morovic, 2014). Brain synapsis is an integral part of learning new skills since it is the process that is responsible for the creation of new neural pathways. The synapsis changes can be small changes such as dendrite morphology, or they can long term such as an increase in the number of receptors for specific neurotransmitters, or changes where proteins are being synthesized more within the cell(Demarin and Morovic, 2014, p.210). Synaptogenesis and neurogenesis do qualify as synaptic plasticity because of the type of changes that they cause to the brain.

Synaptic plasticity can play a central role in the short term or long-term adaptation to short and long-lasting changes of memory, sensory inputs, transient change in behavioral states, and short-lasting forms of memory. In their discussion of synaptic plasticity, Ami Citri and Robert C. Malenka reviewed various works of literature in a bid to understand the mechanisms of the primary forms of synaptic plasticity (Citri and Malenka, 2008). One of their findings was that short term bursts of activity that result in transient accumulation in calcium in presynaptic nerve terminals are what is responsible for short term synaptic activity (Citri and Malenka, 2008). It is responsible for influencing synapses information processing functions, which give them filtering capabilities. Nevertheless, that is only for the short-term synaptic plasticity. Long-term synaptic plasticity is responsible for long-lasting modification of synaptic strength, which in turn allows the activity of any sort to influence subsequent behavior.

There are specific processes, both external and internal, that could result in structural neuroplasticity. According to Pittenger and Duman (2008, p.91), “acute stress can perturb synaptic plasticity at the projection from the amygdala.” Pittenger and Duman (2008) show that the function of the amygdala and synaptic plasticity can be enhanced through stress. The same changes have been observed to these organs after depression (Pittenger and Duman, 2008, p.91). At the same time, certain external elements, such as medications, can cause synaptic plasticity either directly or indirectly. Psychological medications such as antidepressants have been observed to induce an overlap between molecular and cellular changes in the brain (Pittenger and Duman, 2008). Certain medications can alter the production of specific proteins, which would, in turn, make changes such as increasing the number of receptors for specific neurotransmitters.

Functional Neuroplasticity

Functional neuroplasticity is mainly a product of biochemical changes. Unlike synaptic plasticity, functional plasticity causes permanent changes in the brain’s effectiveness (Demarin and Morovic, 2014). The process of learning causes specific changes in the neurons’ relationships through intracellular biochemical processes and structural adjustments, which cause permanent changes in the brain. However, while Dermain and Morovic (2014) attribute functional neuroplasticity to solely memory and learning, Pittenger and Duman (2008), indicate that antidepressants also enhance functional neuroplasticity other than producing structural changes. They can do that by influencing intracellular biochemical processes.

The relationship between functional neuroplasticity, learning, and memory means that functional neuroplasticity is responsible for gaining or recovery of motor skills. Judith Schaechter and her team sought to test the hypothesis that chronic hemiparetic stroke patients exhibit structural plasticity in the same sensory-motor cortical areas that exhibit functional plasticity (Schaechter et al., 2006). The researchers who used functional and structural MRI on chronic stroke patients and norma subjects found out that stroke patients have observed functional plasticity during the process of motor recovery after stroke (Schaechter et al., 2006). Memory is an integral part of motor skills as one needs to learn and remember how to perform these actions. While some motor skills seem like automatic processes, such is only achieved after functional neuroplasticity, which has made changes to the brain’s effectiveness. The observation of functional and structural changes has enabled understand the brain’s restorative mechanisms.

Relationship between Neuroplasticity and Behavior

The field of behavioral neuroscience sought to find answers to human behaviors from neuroplasticity. The concept was explored by Bryan Kolb and Robbin Gibb in their paper on principles of neuroplasticity and behavior, where they attempted to link such principles to potential clinical implications using studies that have been done on the topic (Kolb and Gibb, 1999). One of their assumptions was that cerebral organization and function have constancy (Kolb and Gibb, 1999). They found that in as much as a cerebral function has constancy, the same as much variability as well. Behavioral neuroscientists perceived that variability as the ability of the brain to change its structure and functionality through a process known as brain plasticity. That relationship between neuroplasticity and behavior provided hope for a better understanding of animal behavior.

Changes in the brain can be used to explain behavioral changes based on the rules underlying neuroplasticity. According to Kolb and Gibb (1999,p.9), “when the brain changes, this is reflected in behavioral change.” The brain functions as the source of behavior, which happens to be irregular. As it has already been discussed, specific processes such as learning, remembering, and creating new thoughts require neurological changes. As a result, it follows that a creature’s behavior would be affected by such neurological changes because the brain, which has changed, is also the source of behavior. That is the logic behind one of the principles of brain plasticity, which posits that behavioral changes require a changing the brain.

Neuroplasticity shows that the brain is influenced by the environment just as much as it influences the animal’s surroundings. A wide variety of experiences can produce enduring changes that include general sensorimotor experience, electrical brain stimulation to psychoactive drugs (Kolb and Gibb, 1999). That means specific experiences would trigger brain neurological changes, which would, in turn, go ahead to influence any future behavior of the animal. The animal would then always react in a specific way to a similar situation because the previous experience had created permanent neurological changes to a part of the brain.

Cite this page

Essay Sample on Psychology: Neuroplasticity. (2023, Nov 15). Retrieved from

Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the SpeedyPaper website, please click below to request its removal:

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism