The idea that the brain is “plastic”, or changeable, has been around since the 19th century, but it was well into the second half of the 20th century before it became accepted as fact and proven in functional MRI scans. Until then, the prevailing belief was that the brain developed for a critical period in childhood and remained unchanged - and unchangeable - in adulthood. Research has shown that the brain is able to change itself and alter its neural pathways in a lasting way, even into adulthood. Recently “neuroplasticity” has become a household word.
Neuroplasticity can be seen happening with individual neurons and their connections, as well as with entire sections of the brain as it re-wires itself after an injury. Neuroplastic change can also occur through a person’s experience of environmental stimuli, thought, emotions and behaviours – also referred to as “activity-dependent” stimuli. This means that healthy development, memory, the ability to learn, or recovery from injury can be guided using appropriate stimuli, as we do with music and voice at The Listening Centre.
While it is true that a child’s brain is more plastic than an adult’s and that capacity for change does decline with age, neuroplasticity never disappears. Here at The Listening Centre, we see evidence of the phenomenon of neuroplasticity every day. For more reading on this topic, we recommend Dr. Norman Doidge’s fascinating books, “The Brain that Changes Itself” and “The Brain’s Way of Healing”. Dr. Doidge looks in detail at The Listening Centre in Chapter 8 of “The Brain’s Way of Healing”.