What is neuroplasticity?
AudiencePrimary school, Secondary school
Learning stageStage 3, Stage 4, Stage 5
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Our bodies are built up out of trillions of different cells, all working together to keep us alive. They are involved in making us breath, walk, talk and eat.
Our brains are made up of a special type of cell called a neuron. Neurons are used to let different areas in our brain communicate with one another and send messages to the rest of our body. You could think of our brain as our computer processor, controlling everything we do through a network made of neurons.
But what happens to those neurons when we learn? Or what if we damage our brain in an accident? Can we change the neurons in our brain to become faster and more energy efficient, and maybe even recover after an accident?
- Our brain is made up of four different areas. These are called lobes, and each focuses on different sorts of tasks.
- The main brain area that distinguishes us from other primates is our huge pre-frontal cortex, responsible for abstract reasoning and problem solving.
- You start to lose a lot of the connections between your brain cells (called dendrites) after your 3rd year of age, but you do not become less smart after that.
- Look up the four different lobes of the human brain, give their names and a description of what they do.
- What is the difference between synaptic pruning and neuroplasticity?
- Sometimes when brain tissue is damaged it is able to recover. The lost brain functions can be taken over by an alternative brain area, given enough time, so the brain keeps functioning normally. What is this process called?
- One of the purposes of synaptic pruning is to make the brain work faster and become more automated in executing tasks. Think of an example where too much automated behaviour could lead to problems?
About the video
Brain scanning technology shows that the human brain can adapt throughout our lives. In his film Neuroplasticity - You Can Change Your Brain, Iestyn uses colourful graphics to explain how neurons connect via synapses. Through everyday examples, he shows that when connections become crowded with data, learning prompts an editing process that makes space for new information.
Sponsored by the University of Sydney, the Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize is a national short film competition that encourages school students to communicate a scientific concept in a way that is accessible and entertaining to the public while painlessly increasing their science knowledge. It is intended to support budding young scientists across the nation, who will be our future leaders in research, discovery and communication. You can learn more about the Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize here.