Neural Plasticity Lily Dwyer Saint Francis Xavier University One

Document Sample
Neural Plasticity Lily Dwyer Saint Francis Xavier University One Powered By Docstoc
					       Neural Plasticity

         Lily Dwyer

Saint Francis Xavier University
       One of the most interesting topics of psychology is neural plasticity, the ability of the

brain to change in structure and function after going through different experiences. This

phenomenon has proved to make many scientific advancements in dealing with brain damage

( For example, Dr. Paul Bach-y Rita came to the conclusion that one sense can

replace one that has been damaged. He has created a machine that cures imbalance through

signals sent from the tongue along nerve pathways to the brain (Building A Better Brain). Over

the past few years, psychologists have experimented on neural plasticity-related topics, such as

whether or not age affects dual-task performance and if musical talent and bilingualism allows a

person to be better at executive processing.

       One experiment involving neural plasticity is over the question if age affects a person's

ability to do two tasks at once. In the past, scientists found that old age can limit a person's

ability to do this. They also found that it was harder for them to multi-task when the two actions

involved the same motor responses. In this experiment, the scientists wanted to find out how far

this can go and if it is possible to train a person to multi-task. To do this, they did tests on two

different age groups -- one young-adult group with a mean age of 20 and one senior group with a

mean age of 70. The participants were given two tests. In the first, they were asked to

differentiate between a high pitch and a low pitch when played at the same time. In the second,

they had to say what letter was flashed on the computer screen after they were shown both

simultaneously. This was done over a three week period. At first, the older adults had trouble

with the tests but soon mastered them. Scientists learned from the experiment that both age

groups could perform the tasks at a fast pace when consistently given the pictures over a period

of time, even when they involved the same motor responses (Bherer, L., Kramer, A., Peterson,

M., Colcombe, S., Erickson, K., Becic., E 2005).
       In another experiment, scientists worked to determine if playing an instrument or being a

vocalist can allow a person to excel in executive processing, as it does for bilinguals. This

experiment involved three groups of people -- professional musicians who were monolingual,

fluent bilinguals, and monolingual people who played no instruments. They were all given the

same tasks involving intelligence, cognitive processing, and working memory. They all

performed the same on these tasks but differed when given tasks involving executive control.

When the groups took an auditory conflict test, the musicians did better than both the bilinguals

and monolinguals. From this experiment, it is evident that musical experience can help executive

control (Bialystok, E., DePape, A. 2009).

       I chose these articles because I feel that I can relate to each of them. The first one I can

relate to because of the fact that my mother always wonders how I can do two tasks at once such

as listening to my iPod while doing my homework. It frustrates both of us since she thinks I am

getting no work done but I know that I am. It is a known fact among much of the population that

it is easier for younger generations to multitask then it is for older generations. I thought it would

be interesting to learn more about this. I chose the second article because I come from a family

of musicians and play the piano. As a result, I thought it would be beneficial to know how

musical talent could affect a person's executive control. From these two articles, it is evident that

neural plasticity plays a huge role in normal everyday life. Because of neural plasticity, people

can learn to do new things they could not do on a normal basis. They can also use their skills to

improve other skills important for life. Neural plasticity is just another item on the growing list

of psychological phenomenon.

Bialystok, E., & De Pape, A. (2009). Musical expertise, bilingualism, and executive functioning.

       Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 35(2), 565-

       574. doi:10.1037/a0012735

Bherer, L., Kramer, A., Peterson, M., Colcombe, S., Erickson, K., & Becic, E. (2005). Training

       effects on dual-task performance: Are there age-related differences in plasticity of

       attentional control?. Psychology and Aging, 20(4), 695-709. doi:10.1037/0882-


Shared By: