Title: Practical Applications of Neural Plasticity From the Intersection of Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental Psychology, and Prevention Science
Author: Richard L. Bryck and Philip A. Fisher
Prior researchers have shown that the brain has a remarkable ability for adapting to environmental changes. The positive effects of such neural plasticity include enhanced functioning in specific cognitive domains and shifts in cortical representation following naturally occurring cases of sensory deprivation; however, maladaptive changes in brain function and development owing to early developmental adversity and stress have also been well documented. Researchers examining enriched rearing environments in animals have revealed the potential for inducing positive brain plasticity effects and have helped to popularize methods for training the brain to reverse early brain deficits or to boost normal cognitive functioning. In this article, two classes of empirically based methods of brain training in children are reviewed and critiqued: laboratory- based, mental process training paradigms and ecological interventions based upon neurocognitive conceptual models. Given the susceptibility of executive function disruption, special attention is paid to training programs that emphasize executive function enhancement. In addition, a third approach to brain training, aimed at tapping into compensatory processes, is postulated. Study results showing the effectiveness of this strategy in the field of neurorehabilitation and in terms of naturally occurring compensatory processing in human aging lend credence to the potential of this approach.