Adult Brain Molded By Experience, Not Fixed As Previously Thought

It was previously believed that the brain, after a certain age, is for the most part set in its ways. However, a new study finds that the adult brain, at least in mice, continues to adjust its performance, connections, and “wiring” in response to external changes. Just as experience helps young brains develop, this study shows, adult brains are also sensitive to new experiences, and the adult brain is continually modified in response to these experiences.

The study, which involved mice, was conducted researchers at Rockefeller University and led by Charles D. Gilbert, who is the Arthur and Janet Ross Professor and head of the university’s Laboratory of Neurobiology. Researchers monitored brain circuitry behavior in the sensory region of the brain. They monitored how the brain reacted to stimulus coming in from touching each mouse’s whiskers. Then, the whiskers were removed, to see how the mice would function with a change in the stimulation they were receiving. Indeed, when the whiskers were removed, even as soon as minutes later, the mice’s brains began to restructure the way the brain neurons related to one another.

This is just an early study, but its findings suggest that there is much more research to be done with regards to how adaptive and flexible the adult brain is. While biological and chemical scientists research the mechanics of the changing brain, therapists and counselors witness the effects of these changes on a daily basis. The Rockefeller study was concerned exclusively with the parts of the brain that process touch. However, better understanding how it processes physical stimuli offers hope for how it processes memory, emotional, and social interaction as well. This is one of the first studies to show that the wiring that had been presumed fixed is, in fact, capable of changing and adapting well into adulthood.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • leon N.

    leon N.

    June 18th, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    I do not know the biology or science involved here,but I have always believed we become what we are due to what we go through and due to what we experience…

    I have never given up on learning new things because of this belief of mine and have never stopped from doing newer things and learning from them just because I’m a grown p now…the opportunity to learn is always there…just do it! :)

  • KJP


    June 18th, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    Ha! I knew it! You can change your colors and how you think but only if you are a willing participant in allowing that to happen. There are just too many people who think that it is too late to change their ways and change how they live their lives but according to this completely not true. Great article to show someone who needs to grow a little but feels that they do not have the time or the energy to do so.

  • shannon


    June 20th, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    never subscribed to the theory about teaching old dogs new tricks anyway- now there is proof that it can be done.

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