Use it or lose it!

In the second of the Thrive Forging New Connections conferences, held in Barnsley, we were delighted to welcome neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis as our keynote speaker who discussed neuroplasticity of the brain.

 

Neuroplasticity: London taxi crossing Westminster bridge with Elizabeth Tower and the Houses of Parliament in the background

A neuroscientist, television personality and author, Dr Lewis shares the very latest insights into neuroplasticity and how our brains work with audiences around the world. He translates academic research into practical advice on how to improve brain function.

Armed with the latest cutting-edge developments in neuroscience, one theme of Dr Lewis’ keynote was the neuroplasticity of the brain. Neuroplasticity is the ability of our brains to change and develop their structure and function throughout our lives in response to learning new skills and behaviours.

A well-known piece of research that is often sited relates to London cabbies and the hippocampus, the part of the brain that forms, organises and stores memories. London cabbies undergo extensive training so that they become really familiar with London, referred to as ‘The Knowledge’. Studies using brain scans have shown that part of the hippocampus actually grows during their training. It then remains larger as long as they continue to be cabbies and are reinforcing their knowledge. However, once they stop this part of the hippocampus starts to shrink again. It is a great example of the ‘use it or lose it’ principle of neuroplasticity which is active throughout life.

This is a key concept for the Thrive Approach, both for practitioners and the children and young people they are working with: through repetition, we can learn and reinforce new behaviours. So, while we cannot necessarily fix, we can make things better and therefore we can always offer hope.

Dr Jack Lewis is also the keynote speaker for the Thrive Forging New Connections 2019 conferences in Brighton, Norwich and Pontypridd and for 2020 in Exeter and Coventry.