The term neuroplasticity is being thrown around more so than ever before. Popular websites such as Lumosity.com even include this term in their slogan: "Harness your brain's neuroplasticity and train your way to a brighter life". But what is neuroplasticity?
To understand the concept better it may be easier to break down the term into 2 components: neuro and plasticity. Neuro refers to the nervous system and plasticity refers to the ability to change or remold, if you will. Together the term refers to the ability of the nervous system tissue to alter and remold over time, enabling vast adaptation specific to our needs whether it be in the form of behavior or motor skills.
Not so long ago, maybe around 30 years ago, if you were to discuss neuroplasticity, the majority of the scientific community would have not taken you seriously. Indeed, the concept was readily dismissed and considered to lack scientific basis. Fastforward to today, and neuroplasticity is considered to be a fundamental feature of the nervous system, and it is now studied quite rigorously.
Why is this so important you may ask? Well, now that we recognize that the brain has a stark ability to remold, we have found a potential avenue by which we can rehabilitate a number of pathologies both due to structural damage (such as brain stroke damage) and cognitive pathologies (such as learning disabilities).
Recently, I read the book "The brain that changes itself" by Norman Doidge. In it Dr. Doidge discusses the initial pioneers that fought to prove the concept of neuroplasticity as well as specific cases of stroke patients with remarkable recovery using unconventional rehabilitory techniques. It certainly is worth the read for those interested in the subject and provides both anecdotal evidence as well as discussion of other scientific evidence regarding the subject.
Nevertheless, I have brought forth the topic because it has opened the door for the potential utilization of this knowledge to improve human cognition beyond baseline 'intelligence', and not just for those who have some form of pathology. This may thus bring with it the need for ethical consideration.