Neuroplasticity and Self-Motivation

Our brains are amazing tools scientists do not fully understand. We are getting closer to attempting to figure out how the neural pathways work and how it helps us think, react and manage our lives. 

The term neuroplasticity is defined as the brains capability to reform itself to create new connections on a neural level. The neurons or nerve cells in the brain can adjust when necessary should illness, injury, or disease affect the function. Neurons can also change responses for changes or situations.

Scientifically, the brain’s ability to reorganize uses axonal sprouting, where undamaged axons will grow. These new axons form nerve endings that might be severed due to illness, injury, or disease. The new neural pathways are formed to ensure proper function happens.

Let’s say a brain injury occurs due to a car accident. The person is alive, but one hemisphere is damaged. The healthy hemisphere will create new neural pathways to take over functions the other hemisphere is unable to perform.

It should be noted that such a concept does not always work for the brain. Individuals who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s have such a brain disease the new axons are unable to form, and thus new pathways cannot be created for the proper function of the brain. With dementia it is about losing brain size, thus neural pathways cannot be formed.

When it comes to self-motivation, neuroplasticity is an immensely helpful concept. You can benefit from axons being formed to help redirect your behaviour and brain function. Experts also refer to neuroplasticity as brain plasticity and brain malleability.

Since our main concern is self-motivation and learning techniques that will help you gain the motivation you have not had before, brain malleability is a better term.

It indicates the ability of the brain to adapt as you need it to, thus showing you that you are malleable to information and brain restructuring.

Even though the mysteries of the brain exist, we do know the brain is a powerful computer. It is the computer that helps us think, do, and succeed. You just need to retrain it to accommodate the concept of self-motivation.

It will take time, repetition, and brain exercises to meet your goals.

How Your Brain Motivates You

To understand the principles of Neuroplasticity, you should understand more about the brain and its parts. Our brains are the largest of all vertebrates in relation to body size. 

The typical brain weighs a little over three pounds. The male brain is said to have a volume of 1,274 cubic centimeters, while the female has 1,131 cubic centimeters. We also know the brain is about 2 percent of our body weight, and the cerebrum is where 85 percent of the weight comes from.

We have 86 billion nerve cells or neurons, which anatomists refer to as gray matter. In discussing neuroplasticity, we talked about new neurons being formed, so imagine if one of your 86 billion nerve cells won’t work and you are able to create a new one, plus a new nerve fiber. 

Our brains have billions of nerve fibers made up of axons and dendrites, which is the white matter in the brain. The neurons connect to trillions of synapses for bodily function. Even when we sleep our brain is functioning to keep us breathing, to repair damage to areas of the body and more.

From the spinal cord, there is the brain stem, which connects to the other sections of the brain. In anatomy, the various layers are referred to as the Basal Ganglia, Dura, Cerebellum, Cortex, Cranium (skull), occipital lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, and frontal lobe. You also have a left and right hemisphere, which is where the left and right brain concept is derived.

The lobes and the cortex are important for self-motivation. The cortex is the area where thinking and voluntary movements begin. The frontal lobes help with problem-solving, motor function, and judgment. The parietal lobes help manage body position, handwriting, and sensations or feelings. 

Temporal lobes are where memory and hearing are managed. The occipital lobes process visual information. Even if you are picturing something that is not in front of you, the occipital lobes help your brain “see” what you are thinking about.

From the concise explanation, you can tell there are many parts to brain function, which is why your entire brain needs to work correctly to ensure you are performing at an optimal level.

While the brain is more medical and hard science in relation, you also have the study of psychology that can help you realize the difference in your emotions, feelings, reactions and overall performance. Before talking about the psychology of things, we will examine the 10 principles of neuroplasticity.

10 Principles of Neuroplasticity For Self-Motivation

Using neuroplasticity as a treatment method, in which you have exercises to help your brain create new thinking patterns, requires an understanding of the ten principles behind the treatment process. 

The idea that neuroplasticity, which is very science-oriented, can be used to reprogram the brain is not a new psychological therapy treatment. The exercises are designed to use the brain’s functions to produce better results. Here are the ten principles.

1). Use functions or you will lose the ability to

2). Use the functions and improve upon them

3). Repeat, don’t just learn something, but use repetition to form new routines.

4). Be specific, when you retrain your brain, use the same vocabulary to help you overcome.

5). Use intense training.

6). When a person is recovering, it is known that diverse types of plasticity occur at various times of day for the brain, which is why time matters when you are trying to reprogram your thought process.

7). Salience is when an action is tied to an action or phrase that matters to you specifically. In hypnosis, to get a person to stop smoking, a bargain may be made, such as waking up at 4 a.m. every morning to avoid the craving for smoking.

8). Age is going to matter, but it is not going to hinder you. Younger brains do create new neurons and axon pathways easier than adult brains; however, adults are just as capable of discovering success.

9). Interference is going to hinder your abilities to use plasticity, which is why all principles of neuroplasticity are tied together.

10). Transference is a response to training similar behaviours. For example, it is possible to use typing to improve spelling skills.

Now understand that these principles can be used in several diverse ways such as helping with aphasia. Typically, when there is brain damage, a person is using a machine to help called a speech-generating device or speech-language pathologist, when it comes to symptoms like aphasia.

Even though, many of the examples provided above deal with speech therapy and brain damage, you can still implement the techniques to help guide you towards better self-motivation. 

Your success will be dependent on how willing you are to follow the principles and whether you are working on the areas of the brain at the correct time of day to do you any good.

A paper by the NCBI or National Center for Biotechnology Information has assessed Neuroscience with regards to growth mindset and intrinsic motivation.

There are correlations between how active a brain is and how well you can change your mindset and use intrinsic motivators to function at a higher level.

We know from the studies that dopamine, which naturally occurs in the body, helps the brain to function at a higher level. Dopamine is related to the reward system, where our brain sends a signal to release “good feelings” and reward behaviour. 

For Pavlov’s dog, it was all about saliva being released in anticipation of a reward for food. Humans react better when there is a reward. When you combine rewards with new neural pathways, it is possible for you to adjust your thought process for the better.

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