What do you think of when you want to change something about yourself? New haircut? New diet? A new workout routine, maybe? And what if we told you that the most significant change should begin not outside, but inside your body (to be more specific: in your brain) and you can start working on it right now? All you have to do is to switch the neuroplasticity mode on. It’s all in your head Curvy, skinny, nostalgic, too weak, not emotional enough, pragmatic, forever hungry with skin ever so dry. We tend to define ourselves by what actually is the outcome of how our bodies work, without taking a closer look at one of the main sources of it all. Where does it lay? It’s hidden in 7 mm thick scull and consists of of 86 -100 billion neurons1 with 100 trillion connections, constantly transferring informations influencing the way we feel, think and behave. The brain. The most powerful, enigmatic and complex of all human body organs. According to dr Thomas Südhof, the 2013 Nobel Prize for Medicine laureate aka one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, we understand maybe one or two per cent of what happens in the brain2. And even as little as this allows us to understand, that this wrinkled, broccoli- sized marvel of biological engineering with its connections with the rest of the body organs controls our perceptions, our behaviors, and our health. The moment fetus begins the process of developing a brain around week 5, the brain must grow at the rate of about 250,000 nerve cells per minute, on average, throughout the course of pregnancy3.And what happens once we’re born? Well, that’s when the neurobiological fun really begins. Never too late to change The second we enter this world our brains are exposed to variety of triggers such as sensory stimuli, level of physical activity, diet or stress. Different combinations of these factors make our brains develop in very different ways, using one of the most fascinating biological mechanisms happening in human body. Neuroplasticity is our nervous system’s natural ability to rewire and learn new behaviors, skills and cognitive functioning. Thanks to this process we can modify, change, and adapt both structure and function of the brain. Speaking less scientifically, we can use it to regulate our response to stress, learn with better results or work on our ability to focus more, emotionally suffer less and recover from brain damage. Until not so long ago scientist thought that brain plasticity peaks in mid-twenties and then gradually decreases as one gets older 4. As if the physical downhill caused by decrease of collagen production wasn’t enough, right? The good news is the scientists are not always right. The latest research show the adult brain can create not only new neuronal connections but also new neurons, born from neuronal stem cells. Thanks to changes made in brain’s both grey and white matter, it’s possible to make this organ work more efficiently 5. How to level things up? Neuroplasticity happens naturally as we learn, memorize new data, follow a neuroprotective diet, have social interactions or when we give our brains time to regenerate during good night’s sleep6. It’s actually happening right now as you’re reading this, so for the sake of the quality of your life, please focus. Neuroplasticity can also be accelerated by a physical trauma – in such cases, this life-changing ability serves as an adaptive mechanism, helping to compensate for function loss. If one suffers from a brain damage, neuroplasticity allows the organ to restore itself in order to maximize brain functioning and help its uninjured part to take over the damaged part7. So how much stimulation is enough to maximize the potential of our brains? Considering that on average, up to 50% of new, adult brain cells born in the proces of neurogenesis never make it and instead die and disappear8, the more the better. Simple lifestyle changes can promote the process on daily basis to make us think better, focus easier, prevent from dementia and overcome depression9. So what should we do to upgrade our brains? Neuroplasticity is highly complex mechanism but its stimuli are quite easy to execute: Cognitive engagement Keep your mind open for new information: read books, learn new languages, play games, solve puzzles, play instruments, listen to music, stimulate your imagination by exploring the world of art and engage in discussions. Neuroprotective diet It’s not a secret that the body heals better when it is given nutritious food and the brain development is no exception. Whereas the organ comprises 2% of total body weight, it consumes 20% of the total energy derived from nutrients. To make sure you give it all the neuroplasticity- friendly ones, focus on antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids rich diet10.Optimizing your sleep Whereas we can stimulate our brains during the day, it’s during the night when they can really profit from it. Ditch late night Netflix sessions, afternoon coffees and heavy dinners and remember about morning light exposure about 14 to 16 hours prior to when you want to sleep11.Enhancing sensory and motor functions Exercise, work on your coordination and spend time in complex environments that give you the opportunity to interact with a changing sensory and social stimuli and to engage in motor activity12. Working on stress management Stress is one of the key factors effecting the central nervous system and disrupting mechanism of neuronal adaptation13. Move your body, meditate and focus on breath work to give your brain a break from destructive stressors impact14. What we look like, what we think like, what we feel and what we want is an effect of pure biology. The deeper the scientists dig in human body functions, the clearer the user’s manual becomes. And the more we respect the organic mechanisms happening 24/7 in our bodies, the more we can maximize our inner selves’ ability to grow (in metaphorical sense, of course). If it all starts in the brain, we start with the brain – feeding it with the right food, right daily rhythm and the right thoughts, ready to neuroplastically thrive. Marzena Jarczak An international model based in Paris. A researcher, copy writer and a journalist exploring for us the areas of neuroscience, brain, biohacking, living healthy life. Author of Out & About series discovering cultural life in Paris in all its aspects. A strong, wise personality with a growth mindset. Read more: The Human Brain in Numbers: A Linearly Scaled-up Primate Brain, Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2009We understand maybe one or two per cent of what happens in the brain, dr Thomas Südhof, Europarliament TV, 2014The Development and Shaping of the Brain, chapter 6, Discovering the Brain, based on the presentation by Pasko Racic, National Academy of Science Aging and brain plasticity, Lisa Pauwels, Sima Chalavi, and Stephan P. Swinnen, Impact Journals, 2018Structural plasticity of the adult brain, Fred H. Gage, PhD, Dialogue in Clinical Neuroscience, 2004 Jun 6(2)Control Pain & Heal Faster with your Brain, Huberman Lab, 2021 March Understanding & Conquering Depression, Huberman Lab, 2021 AugustDr. Andrew Huberman — A Neurobiologist on Optimizing Sleep, Performance, and Testosterone, Tim Ferris Show, episode #521Stress, Depression, and Neuroplasticity: A Convergence of Mechanisms, Christopher Pittenger & Ronald S. Duman, Neuropsychopharmacology 33, 88-109, 2008Neuroplasticity and Clinical Practice: Building Brain Power for Health, Frontiers in Psychology, Joyce Shaffer, 2016, 7, 1118Role of Lifestyle in Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis in an Aging Brain, Cureus, Reeju Maharjan, Liliana Diaz Bustamante, […], and Safeera Khan, 2020 (Sep), 12(9)Brain Plasticity and Behaviour in the Developing Brain, Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Bryan Kolb, PhD and Robbin Gibb, PhD, 2011 Nov, 20(4), 265-276 Stress Management, Worthen M, Cash E., StatPearls Publishing LLC, 2021 Stop, look, listen: Ziva Meditation by Emily Fletcher – we appreciate the technique for ”normalizing” meditation, for focusing on the person not on the process. It is down to earth, based on neuroscience, and works parallelly in three dimensions of past (meditation), presence (mindfulness) and the future (manifestation). The psychological and physiological effects described in Emily’s book Stress Less, Accomplish More are outstanding.Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing by Dr Quing Li – the practice of spending time in the forest for better health and work-life balance is how we charge our batteries at LAST. Apart from the (critically important) influence on the mentality and mood improvement, forest bathing lowers cortisol levels and blood pressure, improves blood-sugar levels and pain threshold and boosts the immune system. 20 minutes is enough to empower up to 30 days of better performance.Rothko Chapel – a spiritual place, a sanctuary, a place for solitude and gathering. For people of all faith. Filled with 14 murals by Mark Rothko. A must stop to visit and experience the chapel whenever in Houston, Texas.Jakub Józef Orliński – listen to his interpretation of Infelice mia costanza. Jakub is a world renowned opera counter tenor (the highest male voice), combining baroque songs with breakdance, old tradition with modern twist. A free spirit with extraordinary voice and warm, charming personality. Gunda – a mesmerising documentary by Victor Kossakovsky, produced by Joaquin Phoenix. A powerful, profound portrait of farm animal live, an intimate encounter with those who live just next to us, an expression of solidarity with animals. Filled with empathy, attentiveness and sensitivity. A soul-stirring meditation, a picture like you haven’t seen for a long time.Korean temple food by the Buddhist Jeong Kwan – observe and learn how the Buddhist nun and Korean cuisine chef in one goes through the whole food preparation process, from cultivating her plants to using various spices to balance different energies and flavours in the meal. Jeong believes her calling is spreading dharma through cooking. It’s about the respect towards the ingredients, about how to put good energy into your food. You can watch her cook in Seson 3, Episode 1 of Netflix Chef’s Table.