Change At Any Age: Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity – What is it?


Neuroplasticity is the notion that our brains have the capacity for growth by forming new connections, at any age. Which means you can change not just your brain, but your life, at any age. In fact, everything you do, every experience you have, every book you read, person you talk to, course you take – is making changes to your brain, forming new connections. Some neuroscientists take this a step further, suggesting the brain has the capacity not only to form new connections, but grow new neurons (neurogenesis).


A common misconception is the brain is only growing during youth and adolescence and that stops as we enter adulthood.  While it is certainly true that adolescence into early adulthood is a time of significant neuroplasticity – that is also a time where a person doing new things, learning new skills, and having novel experiences.


But by continuing novel experiences or new challenges, even as an adult, means new connections, and thus growth and change, is possible for anyone. You can change your life, and it’s thru challenging and novel experiences.


Why does this matter?


Often when people get stuck in life, experience some sort of dissatisfaction, there is a tendency to get set in one’s ways. There can be a sense that something is missing, maybe we’ve hit a plateau, life might seem mundane or just not as rewarding as it could be.


So you might ask, if my brain is already constantly changing based on experience, why am I not naturally happier or more fulfilled in life or reaching my goals… The key here is in the types of activities or experiences we engage in, as well as the depth of those experience. if we are in autopilot mode, engaging in more routine tasks, repeating the same patterns, we may end up strengthening the same pathways and the same connections in our brain.


Autopilot can become very attractive because engaging in familiar tasks is safe, requires less mental and emotional energy – but in those experiences we’re not maximizing the capability of our brain’s ability to learn, which can hold us back from new experiences, and ultimately limit our growth.


Getting stuck


With the understanding that the brain has the capacity to change and grow – and in fact is changing in everything we do, the question becomes how do we use that to our advantage in those moments of life where things are mundane or routine.


Satisfaction is often associated with growth, often comes from doing new things, or developing deeper skill / expertise. A key to that growth is novelty – novelty could be learning a new skill, doing a new task, a new hobby, or even deepening a skill we already have. If we want to change our brain (and life) for the better, its not enough to do the same thing everyday, but we need to expand ourself in some way.


How does Movement influence the brain?


Physical activity is just one example of how to impact the brain. It should first be noted that how we carry ourself (stand, walk, sit, our posture…) is a reflection of our mind (i.e., state of mind, as a function of certain brain firing patterns). If we worry all the time often the posture associated with it is tense, if depressed then the posture could be slumped or closed off.


While the brain can influence the body, the body and how we move can also influence the brain.  Some neurologists will say only 20% of communication goes from brain to body, and up to 80% of communication goes from body to the brain. This is why movement is such a powerful tool when it comes to growth, because moving the body sends a lot of signals to the brain, and moving in new and different ways can begin to activate parts of the brain.


His is why yoga is helpful to many people – it is a 60 minute session of moving the body into all sorts of poses exemplifying strength and openness. While yoga is great for us physically by moving the body thru a variety of poses, it’s good for us mentally because being in poses requiring strength or openness can activate new or different states in the brain as well.


Awareness of the Body: Interoception vs proprioception


Proprioception is the awareness of position and movement of the body. Any movement requires proprioception, but especially coordinated physical activity, as well as prolonged movements. Challenging movement serve to strengthen the mind-body connection (like any sport, or poses in yoga for example).


Interoception is the awareness of the inner signals from the body. Awareness can include sensations like hunger, temperature, awareness of heart rate or breathing, emotions that might originate from the body, and even pain signals. Awareness of those sensations does not require physical movement (i.e., could be done during meditation) but is closely related to movement.


Movement is linked to sensations, and the mind-body connection. Movement itself requires back and forth communication between body-brain, and when done mindfully, with awareness (of sensations), it further strengthens that connection. The key here is the more we move our body, deliberately and with focused attention, the more we can activate certain areas of the brain (or de-activate, like turning down the ‘thinking’ part of the brain by feeling into sensations of the body), as well as strengthen the mind-body connection.




I’m emphasizing movement as just one aspect influencing the brain, and growth. The take away with neuroplasticity is no matter what your age, the brain is capable of growth. Forming new connections in the brain, and possibly new neurons, is a lifelong process. Anything you do has the capacity to change the structure and connection of neurons in the brain.


The key to leverage that is what you do – taking on new challenges, novel tasks, learning new skills, and doing things that are difficult all force the brain to grow. The possibilities are endless, though I focus on movement because our bodies are built to move. Modern lifestyles often limits that, so we need to make a conscious effort to change. To strengthen the mind-body connection, having some type of consistent movement practice – regular exercise, yoga, tai chi, calisthenics, etc can help activate the brain in new ways, form new connections, and even shift you into new states of being. And the key to any of those activities, is novelty, and progressing!

Get Notified About New Blog Posts!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *