Last Updated on September 19, 2023 by Jade Lin
What do you think the phrase “Neurons that fire together wire together” means? This concept, discovered by Donald O. Hebb, demonstrates that mental stimulation leads to actual physical changes in the brain. When you repeatedly activate neurons in your brain while performing a certain behaviour, those neurons become connected, forming a permanent habit. This is what Hebb was referring to as “Neurons that fire together wire together.”
The Power of Brain Flexibility
There are numerous connections between neurons, and they can be moulded, much like plastic, through experience. For instance, imagine learning a new language, playing sports, or starting a new job. Initially, you may struggle and feel inexperienced, but with practice, you gradually improve and become proficient. This is because the neurons that fire repeatedly in your brain form connections, allowing your brain to become flexible, or plastic. This characteristic is known as neuroplasticity, and it’s why the brain is often compared to plastic.
The term “plasticity” is used because the brain is a malleable structure. However, this does not refer to the literal reshaping of your brain. Instead, it pertains to certain regions of the brain becoming more prominent as they are utilised more frequently. By harnessing the neuroplasticity feature of the brain, you can make acquiring new skills easier. For example, studies have shown that the region of the brain responsible for finger movements in violinists is larger compared to non-violinists, highlighting the impact of practice on brain structure (Lotze et al., 2003).
The connections between neurons are facilitated by hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. Insufficient production of these hormones can contribute to anxiety and depression. Therefore, even if you lack motivation, engaging in new activities and exercise can boost the secretion of these hormones, which can help fight or prevent anxiety and depression. As connections between neurons are established, hormones play a crucial role in solidifying these connections. Therefore, incorporating physical activity and finding suitable hobbies can significantly contribute to the production of beneficial hormones in your brain.
I wish you plasticity.
Written by our clinical psychologist, cognitive behavioural psychotherapist and family counsellor Rana İrem Güler. To book a session with her, or to browse our directory of therapists, use the tool below.
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