For much of our history, we believed that our brains were fully grown during childhood. But with the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we now know that the brain continues to grow, adapt, and change over time. It does this by creating new neurons and developing new pathways.

What neuroplasticity means is that we can develop new ways of thinking and behaving leading to new mindsets, skills, and abilities. Neuroplasticity is a refutation of century-old myths such as creativity is something you are born with, women aren’t good at math, race influences intelligence, and men aren’t empathetic.

Our brains are dynamic and respond to experience by creating new neural pathways. Neuroplasticity is the reason that we can be resilient. We also are beginning to realize that it’s not only possible but necessary to reshape your brain.

Physical activity is one way to stimulate our neuroplasticity. Just walking an hour, a day 5 days a week stimulates neuroplasticity. Other ways to stimulate include positive social interactions, pursuing your curiosity to learn something new, participating in playful mind-expanding activities, engaging with stimulating environments, mindful meditation, and having a purpose in life.

As we begin to understand the role of neuroplasticity in our mental development and health, could it be time for all of us to develop a brain exercise regime? Think about what we do each day that supports brain growth. This requires an ability to self-reflect, an action-oriented curiosity, imagination, and vision, learning from and teaching others, reading, and experiencing the joy that comes from helping others. As with any exercise regimen, we need to consciously allocate time to those activities that stimulate brain growth.

With the growing applications of artificial intelligence, are we putting our brain growth at risk? What happens when we let others think for us? And what happens in the development of the brain of young people when AI removes all of the essential thinking from assignments that are designed to stimulate curiosity and creative thinking?

When was the last time you heard someone talk about the importance of brain growth? What do our national leaders think about this? Is this a part of your organization’s value statement? How is brain growth discussed in our schools? These are tough questions that should be at the forefront of our national agenda, but sadly they are not.

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“Everything having to do with human training and education has to be reexamined in light of neuroplasticity.” – Norman Doidge (neuroplasticity and brain health expert)

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