‘Plastic’ brain can change and adapt

The brain is plastic, allowing it to change, even in later life. However, it needs to be challenged to stay fit and healthy, a campaign warns.

The Hello Brain campaign, just launched by Trinity College Dublin, is encouraging people of all ages to get involved in brain-boosting activities.

Neuroplasticity means that the brain has the ability to change and adapt right across the life-span and also in response to damage.

In particular, physical exercise not only helps a person’s heart, it can also increase the size of their brain’s hippocampus which is crucial to making memories.

Physical exercise also generates a chemical that acts like fertiliser for the brain, encouraging the growth of neural connections and new brain cells.

The campaign, part of a new EU Commission initiative, has an innovative website promoting brain health.

Led by Dr Sabina Brennan, it translates complex scientific information into easy-to-understand practical health and well-being information.

The campaign has a website — www.hellobrain.eu — and an app and invites users to do one thing every day that is good for their brain health. Social media platforms Facebook and Twitter will be used to encourage a sense of community participation among users.

Consultant old-age psychiatrist, Prof Brian Lawlor, said scientific evidence was starting to show that a person’s lifestyle could have a major impact on how our brains function and react to the ageing process.

“Being physically active, building positive connections with the people around us, challenging our brain and managing our diet, diabetes, hypertension and stress are all linked with better brain health,” he said.

“Even young adults could benefit and should consider protecting their brains now for the future. Think of it like a pension fund. It’s a lodgment, an investment in your ‘brain bank’ for later in life.”

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