Neuroplasticity is the ability of brain cells (neurons) to change throughout individual’s lifetime. Previously, it was believed that once humans reach the age of maturity, brain’s structure and functioning become fixed. Similarly, it was thought once they have reached the middle ages their brains will gradually fade away. But these assumptions not absolutely true.
It was thought that whatever experiences a person had in their early developmental years will forever dominate their lives. However, research on Neuroplasticity has shown that human brains continue to learn new things by creating fresh neuronal pathways, in order to adapt to changing needs. This has opened windows of opportunity in management of many psychiatric and neurologic conditions where learning was not considered to be possible.
Similar beliefs were held about the brain’s capacity to generate new neurons in adulthood, which was earlier considered impossible. But new research has shown that certain conditions can trigger generation of new neurons (Neurogenesis).
Various forms of neuromodulation therapies use the brain’s inherent plasticity to result in clinical improvements. Some of these techniques utilize very low electric currents, for example, Electroconvulsive therapy which was perhaps the earliest such technique. Electroconvulsive therapy is still very much in use for very severe cases, but it requires use of general anesthesia and may cause loss of memory. Newer techniques such as Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) are remarkably safer and are used in outpatient settings routinely.
Neurofeedback, as the name suggests, is a type of feedback or training which works on the principle of operant conditioning and neuroplasticity. It is a completely non-invasive process which does not involve use of external electrical currents or magnetic fields. It is a potent method of neuromodulation that has been found to be effective in various psychiatric conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, bran injury and various others.