Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Lisa Genova TED talk - how to improve our neuroplasticity and avoid Alzheimer’s disease ?

Lisa Genova, US neuro scientist, author of Still Alice ..
Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, neuroelasticity, or neural plasticity, is the ability of the brain to change continuously throughout an individual's life, e.g., brain activity associated with a given function can be transferred to a different location, the proportion of grey matter can change, and synapses may strengthen or weaken over time. - wikipedia
Listening to this TED talk by Lisa Genova (click here) will help us understand the risk mankind faces from a grave lifestyle disease afflicting mankind with no special reason, Alzheimer's disease, affecting every second person above 80 years of age , in other words how to improve our neuroplasticity .... 

Lisa tells us why our brain cells degenerate over time and how we can avoid this natural degeneration by creating new functional synapses in our brains , for example through reading a new book, learning a new language or an instrument, engaging in aerobic exercises etc .

In the process of neuroplasticity, new synapses are created by learning. The amount of new synapses (joining point of the nerve fibres in the brain) overtakes the older ones getting dysfunctional due to amyloid plaque accumulation. 

Healthy and Alzheimer's affected brain, courtesy Alzheimer's Association
In other words, facts and information stored in some part of your brain which got erased from ageing of the cells (amyloid plaque accumulation) has now been stored in a new synapse. We have almost a hundred trillion synapses in our brain.

We cannot remove the plaque that accumulates in the amyloids of the synapses at the end points of the nerve fibres in our brain. But we can create new fresh synapses that can capture new facts of knowledge and prevent the brain from getting stunted. Learning new skills, languages, knowledge  etc overtake the amyloid plaque accumulation in the synapses in our brains due to our poor sleeping habits of the past.

I was surprised in my earlier visit to IIT Bombay, end 2018, to find my Professor, Uday Gaitonde, moving the mouse very easily with his left hand (earlier he used his right hand). When i asked him, he told me he has learnt a new skill and the aim is to keep away Alzheimer's disease.

One skill that I too have acquired of late (and which I want others also to acquire quickly) is the ability to move the computer mouse of the office computer with the left hand at great speed. It has not only helped improve my word processing speed, it has reduced excessive strain on my right shoulder blades otherwise and brought about healthy synapse generation in my brain.

So as we march to old age, let us be more creative, helpful, accommodative of other people which will keep our brain fresh and give us active old age.



  1. Very helpful article on synapses. Gud news for geriatric cohortscohorts that just by learning a new language or something they always wanted to do but couldn't due to different obligations, if they venture can prevent alzheimer's and prevent those sad hospital days. Awesome.

  2. in the future we are going to have more and more people getting afflicted with brain and memory related ailments and it is better to be prepared now than be taken aback later. One way is to give good exercise to the brain by using both parts of the brain. I use left hand to move the computer mouse always .


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