Brain development and plasticity

The study of the brain is known as neuroscience, a field of biology aimed at understanding the functions of the brain at every level, from the molecular up to the psychological, and how it develops and changes across the life span. There is also a branch of psychology that deals with the anatomy and physiology of the brain, known as biological psychology. This field of study focuses on each individual part of the brain and how it assesses different parts of the body. Plasticity refers to how circuits in the brain change--organize and reorganize--in response to experience, or sensory stimulation. Periods of rapid change or plasticity occur in the brain under four main conditions: when the immature brain first begins to process sensory information (developmental plasticity); second, when changes in the body, like a problem with eyesight, alter the balance of sensory activity received by the brain (activity-dependent plasticity); third, when we alter our behavior based on new sensory information (plasticity of learning and memory), and fourth, following damage to the brain (injury-induced plasticity). Scientists believe that the same brain mechanisms underlie all four types of plasticity: adjustments in the strength of connections, or synapses, between brain cells. The details of the molecular control of synaptic modification is an extraordinarily active field of research. Understanding the mechanisms of brain plasticity is essential to developing interventions to overcome brain damage.

People related to the topic: Brain development and plasticity

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Kendal Broadie, Ph.D.
Stevenson Professor of Neurobiology; Professor of Biological Sciences; Professor of Pharmacology; Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology

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Associate Professor of Anesthesiology

Ana Marin Dias Carneiro, Ph.D.
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Louise B. McGavock Chair and Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

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Lee E. Limbird Professor of Pharmacology; Director, Vanderbilt Program in Drug Discovery

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