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July 30, 2011

Molding the Plastic Brain


The plasticity of the human brain can be directly related to the deteriorating effects of Alzheimer's disease. Recently conducted studies lead to the implication that one of the most successful approaches to a healthy aging human brain includes consistent prevention early in one?s lifetime. The power of developing Alzheimer?s disease and other forms of dementia lies in our hands every day as we mold our plastic brains to fulfill their final functions.

Alzheimer?s disease can be classified as the most prevalent form of dementia in the human population, affecting over 4.5 million Americans alone (Society for Neuroscience 2011). Alzheimer?s disease comes with memory loss and inability to properly learn and retain new information. As the disease progresses, certain discoveries reveal biochemical changes within the human brain including increased number of beta amyloid deposits, neurofibrillary tangles of hyper phosphorylated tau, and the presence of ApoE4 proteins. As these biochemical changes begin to increase, the strength of synapses between neurons in the brain begins to diminish.

Current research regarding Alzheimer?s disease indicates an explanation for these waning effects by the forever changing human brain. The decline in plasticity of the human brain can directly be correlated to the extreme loss of function these patients encounter. Neurogenesis, the process of developing new neurons, serves to be an extremely important scientific discovery about plasticity in the human brain. Research that involves taking advantage of our brain?s ability to mold into a healthy functioning organ has indications that it could possibly be the most effective and critical treatment in treating not only Alzheimer?s patients, but people with healthy brains just as well.

In order to sustain healthy brain function, one must make a conscious effort to prevent deterioration. Although it may seem taxing and unimportant in a healthily functioning brain, prevention at this point seems to be the best treatment in maintaining one?s dynamic brain. Unpretentious efforts in prevention include simple processes such as consistent social interaction, eating a healthy and well balanced diet, and regular stimulation of one?s cardiovascular system through physical exercise in efforts to promote the process of neurogenesis. With creation of an enriched environment, the plasticity of the human brain is constantly molding into its most healthful state and therefore preventing the loss of proper synaptic connections between neurons in the brain.

Research studies and discovered knowledge indicate some of the essential brain areas involved in learning and memory, and therefore, scientists can use this information as a treatment plan, alongside continuous prevention which seems to be critical in a developing brain. Specifically, the hippocampus is largely affected in Alzheimer?s patients. For example, if scientists can find a way to target the hippocampal region of the brain to reverse or stabilize the proper biochemical properties of its functional region, strides can be made to decrease and possibly eliminate deteriorating forms of dementia in the human population. The plasticity of the human brain is our biggest hope and progressing research sets a positive spotlight in developing a cure for such diseases.
Posted by      Kaci C. at 12:56 PM MDT
Tags: learning, memory

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