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Brain development and plasticity

The study of the brain is known as neuroscience, a field of biology aimed at understanding the functions of the brain at every level, from the molecular up to the psychological, and how it develops and changes across the life span. There is also a branch of psychology that deals with the anatomy and physiology of the brain, known as biological psychology. This field of study focuses on each individual part of the brain and how it assesses different parts of the body. Plasticity refers to how circuits in the brain change--organize and reorganize--in response to experience, or sensory stimulation. Periods of rapid change or plasticity occur in the brain under four main conditions: when the immature brain first begins to process sensory information (developmental plasticity); second, when changes in the body, like a problem with eyesight, alter the balance of sensory activity received by the brain (activity-dependent plasticity); third, when we alter our behavior based on new sensory information (plasticity of learning and memory), and fourth, following damage to the brain (injury-induced plasticity). Scientists believe that the same brain mechanisms underlie all four types of plasticity: adjustments in the strength of connections, or synapses, between brain cells. The details of the molecular control of synaptic modification is an extraordinarily active field of research. Understanding the mechanisms of brain plasticity is essential to developing interventions to overcome brain damage.


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  • Brain Disorders Network on the World Wide Web
    BrainNet distributes or assists in the distribution of information related to the central nervous system and various neurological disorders.
  • Brain Injury Association
    The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) is the leading national organization serving and representing individuals, families and professionals who are touched by a life-altering, often devastating, traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Kevin C, Ess Research Laboratory
    The Kevin C, Ess Research Laboratory studies the neurobiology of progenitor cells, specifically the mechanisms by which neural progenitors make cell fate decisions during development.
  • National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
    The mission of NINDS is to reduce the burden of neurological disease.
  • Project on the Decade of the Brain
    From 1990 to the end of 1999, the Library of Congress and the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health sponsored a unique interagency initiative to advance the goals set forth in a proclamation by President George Bush designating the 1990s as the Decade of the Brain: "to enhance public awareness of the benefits to be derived from brain research" through "appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities."

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