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Science is providing more and more evidence that our brains are malleable and continually changing in response to our lifestyle, physiology and environment. This is known as brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. It means we are literally reforming our brains (changing our minds), on a daily basis, changing neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour, environment, thinking and emotions. The concept of neuroplasticity replaces the old view that the brain is static except at certain stages of life, and explores how our brain changes over the course of our lifetime. Find out more below...


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Volume 7, Issue 7

Ramila Padiachy

Doctorate of Natural Medicine (DNM)® R.Ac.


Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic

1437 Woodroffe Avenue
Ottawa ON (map)


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Neuroplasticity (Brain Plasticity)

Neuroscientific research tells us that your brain has the remarkable ability to reorganize pathways, create new connections and even create new neurons throughout your entire lifetime. Our views of the nature of the brain have changed in a way that's similar to the change in our understanding of DNA. It used to be believed that DNA did not change, that you were stuck with what you were born with. This has also been disproven by researchers like Bruce Lipton (see November 2012 newsletter). Your DNA, like your brain, changes continuously based on your experiences, emotions and environment.

The good news is that we have much more control over our body, mind and brain than we probably thought, through influencing both our DNA and our brain. We will focus mainly on the brain in this newsletter, but the two are interconnected.

Neurons that fire together, wire together - and neurons that fire apart, wire apart


There are two types of brain plasticity - functional plasticity, or your brain's ability to move functions from a damaged area to undamaged areas; and structural plasticity, it's ability to actually change its physical structure as a result of learning.

When you're learning a new skill, the more you focus on, and practice something, the better you become, which is a result of new neural pathways forming in response to your learning efforts. At the same time, your brain is eliminating pathways you no longer need.

How does neuroplasticity work? Dr. Joe Dispenza describes the neural network as, "...literally millions of neurons firing together in diverse compartments, modules, sections, and subregions throughout the entire brain. They team up to form communities of nerve cells that act in unison as a group, clustered together in relation to a particular concept, idea, memory, skill, or habit. Whole patterns of neurons throughout the brain become connected through the process of learning, to produce a unique level of mind."

However, it takes more than simple repetition of a stimulation or activity to create the brain connections that lead to the formation of neural networks. An experiment was conducted by Dr. Michael Merzenich at the University of California in the mid-1990s in which he applied a tapping stimulus to the fingers of 2 groups of monkeys. Occasionally, the rhythm of the tapping would change. In one group, responding to the change in the tapping would result in a reward - a sip of juice. In the other group, responding to the change in the tapping did not provide any reward. After 6 weeks, there were profound changes in the monkeys who were rewarded, and therefore paid close attention to the stimulus, waiting for the rhythm to change. These changes occurred in the area of the brain involved in processing stimulus to the fingers. No such change was observed in the monkeys who weren't paying attention to the stimulus, even though it was exactly the same.

Joe Dispenza has noted, "The key ingredient in making these neural connections ... is focused attention. When we mentally attend to whatever we are learning, the brain can map the information on which we are focusing. On the other hand, when we don't pay complete attention to what we are doing in the present moment, our brain activates a host of other synaptic networks that can distract it from its original attention. Without focused concentration brain connections are not made, and memory is not stored."

What neuroplasticity means in practical terms

Your brain's plasticity is controlled by your diet and lifestyle choices, including exercise, as well as emotional states, sleep patterns and stress levels. Your thoughts (and emotions) are extremely important - you can think yourself well, or you can think yourself sick.

A new term, self-directed neuroplasticity (SDN), is the practice of directing the formation of new neural pathways and the destruction of old ones through experiences that we consciously decide to undertake. In other words, we can change ourselves by consciously changing our mind, i.e. deliberately thinking differently.


Examples of Neuroplasticity

An  example of neuroplasticity occurs when a person who has had a stroke regains the skills lost due to the stroke by creating new neural pathways in another part of the brain and relearning the skills.

Changing a habit involves creating new neural networks and letting the old neural networks stop "firing together" - a simple example of neuroplasticity.

Learning difficulties can be solved using neuroplasticity. For example, Michael Merzenich developed a series of "plasticity-based" computer programs, which provides brain exercises to help with the language and learning deficits of dyslexia. Similar work has been done to counteract the negative plasticity resulting from age-related cognitive decline, which was shown to improve cognitive function and memory.

In You Are the Placebo, Joe Dispenza tells how he conquered a major back injury through thought alone, making a complete recovery and avoiding surgery that was likely to be less than successful.

Norman Doidge gives many examples of people who have overcome major pain and illnesses by using visualization, or consciously re-teaching themselves skills.

Note that these changes can take months of concentrated effort to accomplish, although there are also reports of spontaneous healings from major chronic diseases, e.g. multiple sclerosis.


Keep Your Brain Healthy

Note that your brain needs both mental AND physical exercise to be healthy. Exercise prompts nerve cells to release brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth factor that triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health and directly benefit cognitive functions, including learning.

Dr. Merzenich (who conducted the study of monkeys) recommends:

  • engaging in challenging new activities throughout your life,
  • staying socially active, and
  • practicing mindfulness (see August 2015 newsletter).

He stresses that you need to have a genuine interest in your activities - really care about them, and not just go through the motions.

Other important considerations for brain health:

  1. vitamin D3Vitamin D plays an important role in brain health, inflammation and immune function. Vitamin D influences the expression of 2000-3000 genes. Researchers have located metabolic pathways for vitamin D in the brain's hippocampus and cerebellum, areas that are involved in planning, information processing and memory formation. In older adults, low vitamin D levels are associated with poorer brain function. You can purchase Nature's Sunshine Vitamin D3 at our online shop.
  2. Omega-3 - EPA and DHA - is essential for brain health, and has been shown to help in treating depression, ADHA and may help prevent Alzheimer's disease, other dementias and aging-related memory loss.
  3. Gut health: your gut is your 'second brain'. Gut bacteria transmit information from your GI tract to your brain via your vagus nerve. Just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut, including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is linked to mood. Abnormal gut flora has been associated with abnormal brain development. In addition to avoiding sugar, one of the best ways to support gut health is to consume beneficial bacteria. You can purchase the following Nature's Sunshine products to promote gut health: Bifidophilus Flora Force and Acidophilus Bifidobacterium can be purchased at our online shop.
  4. Choline reduces inflammation, plays a role in nerve communications, and prevents the buildup of homocysteine in your blood (elevated homocysteine is linked to heart disease). Eggs and meat are 2 of the best dietary sources of choline. If you do not consume them, you might wish to consider a supplement.
  5. Reduce your stress. Research shows that how you respond to stress may be a key factor in how your brain ages. Elevated stress hormones may speed up short-term memory loss in older adults. Chronic stress can actually trigger a genetic switch that results in loss of brain volume, and this contributes to both emotional and cognitive impairment. This explains why a recent study showed that your daily stress responses have long-term implications for your mental health, especially anxiety and depression. An excellent tool for managing stress is Emotional Freedom Tapping, known as EFT, or simply 'tapping'. Tapping can help reprogram your body's reactions to everyday stress. For more information, see The Tapping Solution by Nick Ortner. Meditation is also extremely effective.

For additional information, please email or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment. Please continue letting friends and family know about this newsletter. Also, on our website, please see back issues of this newsletter, information about services, products and our clinic, and order products.


  1. Neuroplasticity. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.  Accessed September 25, 2015.
  2. Mercola J. Neuroplasticity studies reveal your brain's amazing malleability.  January 15, 2015.
  3. Lipton BH. The Biology of Belief. Carlsbad, California: Hay House, Inc., 2008.
  4. Doidge N. The Brain that Changes Itself. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2007.
  5. Dispenza J. Evolve Your Brain. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications Inc., 2007.
  6. Dispenza J. You Are the Placebo. Carlsbad, California: Hay House, Inc., 2014.
  7. Perlmutter D. The gift of neuroplasticity.  Accessed September 25, 2015.
  8. Ortner N. The Tapping Solution. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc., 2013.

Disclaimer: The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.


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