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Neural Plasticity. Ashley Maurer. What is Neural Plasticity?. Also called Neural Adaptation It is the ability of the CNS to change & adapt in response to environmental cues, experience, behavior, injury or disease

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neural plasticity

Neural Plasticity

Ashley Maurer

what is neural plasticity
What is Neural Plasticity?
  • Also called Neural Adaptation
  • It is the ability of the CNS to change & adapt in response to environmental cues, experience, behavior, injury or disease
  • Neurons possess the ability to alter their structure and function in response to a variety of internal & external pressures, including behavioral training
  • Thus, it the mechanism by which the brain encodes experience & learns new behaviors, and by which a damaged brain relearns lost behavior in response to rehabilitation
plasticity is associated with
Plasticity is associated with…
  • Decreases, increases, and shifts in brain activation to facilitate the behavioral improvement
  • Reallocation in hemispheric resources
    • Example: relative dominance of left and right hemispheres
  • Recruitment of additional brain regions
  • Strengthening of an anatomical structure
    • Example: Increased white-matter density
  • Functional Connections
    • Increased coherence among regions in neural pathways
    • Remember Hebb told us, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
principles of neural plasticity kleim jones 2008 ludlow et al 2008
Principles of Neural Plasticity(Kleim & Jones, 2008; Ludlow, et al., 2008)
  • Principle 1: Use it or Lose it
  • Principle 2: Use it & Improve it
  • Principle 3: Specificity
  • Principle 4: Repetition Matters
  • Principle 6: Time Matters
  • Principle 7: Salience Matters
  • Principle 8: Age Matters
  • Principle 9: Transference
  • Principle 10: Interference
principle 1 use it or lose it
Principle 1: Use it or Lose it
  • If a neural circuit is not actively engaged in task performance for an extended period of time, it will degrade in function
principle 2 use it improve it
Principle 2: Use it & Improve it
  • Training that drives a specific brain function can lead to an enhancement of both function & structure of the neural mechanisms involved in that behavior
  • Speech & Limb movements are different
    • Speech movements are learned throughout childhood, are used for several hours daily throughout a lifetime, and required precision to achieve auditory targets
principle 3 specificity
Principle 3: Specificity
  • The nature of the training experience dictates the nature of the plasticity
  • Changes in neural functions may be limited to the specific function being trained
    • Example: Training on lip strength may benefit the generalized control for lip movement & force, but may not spontaneously transfer to speech production
  • Debate: Can training on non-speech oral behaviors enhance speech production
    • True: repetition of isolated syllables is not equivalent to speech production
    • However, studies show there are both commonalities & differences in the neural substrates involved in speech & non-speech behaviors
principle 4 repetition matters
Principle 4: Repetition Matters
  • Induction of plasticity requires sufficient repetition
  • Repetition of a newly learned or relearned behavior may be required to induce lasting neural change
  • Therefore, the number of repetitions per session and the number of sessions required for a behavior to become consolidated needs to be established for speech and voice motor control rehabilitation
principle 5 intensity matters
Principle 5: Intensity Matters
  • Induction of plasticity requires sufficient training intensity
  • But remember…
    • May not be appropriate for people with MND that are easily fatigued
    • Medical status & other factors should be considered before assuming that intensive training can produce behavioral changes and neural plasticity
    • Maladaptive responses to intense motor treatment programs may be fatigue & possible muscle damage
principle 6 time matters
Principle 6: Time Matters
  • Different forms of neural plasticity may occur at different times in response to treatment
  • Therapy promoting neural restructuring should work anytime, but there may be time windows in which it is particularly effective in direction the lesion-induced reactive plasticity
  • Time delays may also allow for the greater establishment of self-taught compensatory behaviors, some of which may interfere with rehabilitative training efforts.
principle 7 salience matters
Principle 7: Salience Matters
  • Training experience must be sufficiently salient to induce plasticity
  • Neural plasticity may be enhanced when the movement is purposeful & related to the behavior being trained
    • Importance to speech: simple repetitive movements or strength may not enhance skilled movements & have less potential for inducing speech production for communication
  • Training in voice and speech may need to involve meaningful communication.
principle 8 age matters
Principle 8: Age Matters
  • Adult brains are capable of plastic adaptation to injury including some degree of structural reorganization
  • Training-induced plasticity occurs more readily in younger brains
  • It is unknown whether learning some aspect of speech production, such a consonant articulation, may be more affected by aging than others
principle 9 transference
Principle 9: Transference
  • Ability of plasticity following training in one set of neural circuits may promote concurrent or subsequent plasticity
  • It is important to determine if a particular therapy is responsible for the enhancement of another behavior or whether transference occurs regardless of the type of therapy
principle 10 interference
Principle 10: Interference
  • Plasticity causing changes in neural function can also impede the induction of other behaviors or skills
    • Therapy that benefits one skill may interfere with performance of another
    • Perhaps enhancing some speech skills such as articulation might interfere with other aspects such as prosody or rate
  • Retained functions may interfere with the recovery of lost functions after injury.


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Louis, MI: Elsevier Mosby.

Kleim, J. A., & Jones T. A. (2008). Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: Implications

for rehabilitation after brain damage. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 51,


Ludlow, C. L., Hoit, J. , Kent, R., Ramig, L. O., Shrivastav, R. Strand, E., Yorkston, K., & Sapienza, C.

M. (2008). Translating principles of neural plasticity into research on speech motor control recovery

and rehabilitation. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 51, 240–258.

Zhang, Y. & Wang, Y. (2007). Neural plasticity in speech acquisition and learning. Bilingualism:

Language and Cognition, 10(2) 147–160.