Brain Plasticity

I saw an amazing show recently on PBS which entailed a discussion of recent findings in the area of brain plasticity. It was fascinating! The scientist talked about the process of plasticity and how the brain can either shrink or grow. Often in the elderly there is shrinkage due to the lack of learning new things or challenges. He talked about how this could lead to a person having more trouble walking and being vulnerable to falls. It starts subtly with the person thinking about the possibility of falling, and this invites the person to look down at the ground or at their feet while walking. This is not natural. When we are babies and learning to walk, we are not looking at our feet! We look up! We want to go, to move, and we can’t wait to get there. This movement affects structures of the brain and we learn to walk effortlessly, looking straight ahead. Looking down at our feet reverses this process and alters the brain structures again – unlearning critical things we had learned so early in life.

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