Pythagoras, Aristotle and Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to make neural pathways based on the information it receives, isn’t new (our brains have always been plastic); what IS new is our understanding of this phenomenon.

This is probably best summarised by the old adage: ‘Neurons that fire together wire together’. In other words, if you think a thought or perform an action often enough, the neurons that are responsible for executing that thought or action will start to join together to form new neural pathways.

Now, depending on the nature of those thoughts and actions the new pathways can be positive or negative – we all have good habits and not-so-good habits, right?

And, by the same token, if old neural pathways are neglected, they will die. You might have been able to recite Pythagoras’ Theorem* when you were 15 but, for most of us, that neural pathway faded some time shortly thereafter.

So, it looks like Aristotle (or maybe Will Durrant) was right: “We are what we repeatedly do.” But modern neuroscientists would also say: “We are what we repeatedly think.”

Of course, all of this has huge implications for all of us, but it has extra significance for people living with neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s, MS, stroke and brain injury, in that the right kind of exercise can elicit startling adaptations, to the degree that their ability to manage them is immeasurably enhanced.

If you are living with Parkinson’s, MS, stroke or brain injury and you would like to know more about how neuroplasticity can turn your life around, email tim@exerciseasmedicinenz.com or call 021 0228 2551.

The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

Pythagoras Diagramme