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Tai Chi
Neural Plasticity

5 Oct 2010
When I was a boy in school, I recall being taught that our brain cells stop growing at about the age of 35, and that they do nothing but die from that point on. We all thought it creepy, but at the age of 10 or 12 you don't worry much about turning 35.

In the last ten years neuroscientists have made tremendous discoveries about the brain that completely change how we think about it. They have discovered that new brain cells often grow, and new neural pathways are often formed deep into old age. This brain growth, or neuroplasticity, has tremendous implications for the practice of Tai Chi Chuan.

Tai Chi can be thought of as a method for reprogramming the brain. We have long known that Tai Chi is good for balance - good for regaining balance, good for repairs to our nervous system, good for leg strengthening. Now these benefits can be thought of in the context of stimulating new brain growth directly. This new brain growth is likely the method by which many Tai Chi benefits occur. Neuroscientists know that the type of exercise, whether physical or mental, or a combination as Tai Chi is, directly affects the type of brain growth that occurs. This is the reason that post-middle-age adults are encouraged to engage in cognitive exercises, to keep their minds alive through continuous growth of brain cells and neural pathways.

Other aspects of brain research have focused on what causes long-term memory versus short-term memory. The answer is - repetition! Short-term memory residing in the pre-frontal cortex is built easily, but long-term memory resides in the hippocampus. The details of how memories transfer from the cortex to the hippocampus are still not clear, but one thing is clear: repetition, through practice, stimulates the transfer.

So go practice!



You may also like this related article: Accepting in Martial Arts (133)
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