How Does Neuroplasticity Work? [Infographic]

When neuroscience began to discover more about the brain’s remarkable ability to change, it opened up new ways of thinking about our work with patients.

By harnessing the power of neuroplasticity, we can help patients think more clearly, learn more easily, develop greater focus, and manage reactive emotions.

And that can help them find new ways to respond to a wide range of conditions including brain injury, stroke, learning disabilities, traumatic experiences, depression, and anxiety.

But neuroplasticity involves a number of complex processes, and it can be a difficult concept to convey to patients. Want to teach your clients about neuroplasticity? Give them this: @RuthBuczynski Click To Tweet So we created this as a way for you to help patients understand how neuroplasticity works. Because if the brain can change, your patients’ lives can change.

If you'd like to download a copy to share with your patients, just click here: PDF JPEG

Now we'd like to hear from you. How could you use this in your work with patients? Please leave a comment below.
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97 Comments

  1. Mia says:

    Great visual for explaining neuroplasticity! I am an OT and hung it in my office; I also gave one to our PT for her gym. Thanks!

  2. alexandia says:

    great work @ lovespellsandlostlovespells.com

  3. It’s a very helpful survey and even encourages the client to find out his/her own way. It diminishes fear and is motivating: helpful techniques are possible. There is a chance for a better life. The client knows what happens and how and why it works. No witchcraft, no magic.

  4. Patricia says:

    This is great. I would love to teach my clients Neuroplasticity . Thank you for sharing this.

  5. Jody says:

    awesome! and Easy to ‘get’! …great visual too. I can envision being great help to illustrate and re~mind kids and adults and classrooms I coach, consult and advocate with. Thank you!

  6. Jean moore says:

    Thank you so much for the chart. I have 2 clients, one that recently had a stroke and one has been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. The graph will be such a helpful tool working with these clients and also with my teaching of Mindfulness to all of my clients.

  7. Thank you for this chart and opportunity to look again at neuroplasticity. I always appreciate the consistency and high standard you bring to the profession and our education, Ruth.
    “The brain is neutral; it doesn’t know the difference between good and bad.” Some say life’s events are neutral– I say it is the meaning we give to what happens that wires the brain. Mindfulness plays a bigger role than anyone can imagine–in helping lead us through life’s inevitable challenges with presence and choice– incorporating new ways of being and more resilience than we thought possible.

  8. Sarah Kelly says:

    Thank you for publishing this – our team are going to print out this poster. However, like Andrew Bein, we have a concern about the ‘good / bad thoughts’ label. Could you perhaps change this to ‘Helpful / Unhelpful’ thoughts?

  9. Marilyn says:

    Thanks, Ruth.

    This will be very helpful for my depressed clients that hold little hope for the future, and are not thoroughly convinced that change is possible.

  10. Hi everyone,

    It was brought to our attention that there was an issue with the PDF file in that it was not printing or displaying properly for some devices. We have looked into the issue and made some adjustments, so now all devices should be able to access and print the full PDF.

    To download the infographic, click here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/nicabm-stealthseminar/Blog/images/NICABM-Neuroplasticity-Infographic-PDF.pdf

    If you are still having difficulties with viewing or printing the PDF, please let us know at: respond@nicabm.com and we will assist you.

  11. debbie says:

    Thank you for the graphic

    Using this as a teacher of young children is
    priceless

  12. MsVicki says:

    This will be a wonderful tool to share with my Ageless Grace students. However, as other have noted above, the pdf is incomplete. It includes the second page twice, but does not include the first page.

    I’ll check back later, in hopes that this is corrected, it’s such a valuable resource!

  13. Nona Collins says:

    Thank you so much for this information, and in a little diagram how wonderful. I will use this in my Addiction groups along with my other visual charts to explain that change is possible.

  14. Elaine DiStasi says:

    This is a great tool for some of my most challenging patients! Will download it and give it to them so that they can understand how practicing the things we do in session, as well as turning their negative thoughts into positive thoughts, will strengthen their neuroplasticity in a positive way, whereas continuing
    their negative thoughts and behaviors will reinforce that in their brains. Thanks for a simple, understandable, tool.

  15. Bronwyn Simpson says:

    Clients seem to understand that repetition affects neural pathways and also the concept of a part of the brain being the executive and another part being the emotional side. Thus the concept of emotional regulation resting upon coupling new physiological responses and the observing non judgemental brain with data which previously resulted in a heightened arousal. This information presented by you explains in brief form some fairly involved concepts including polyvagal theory, trauma activation and the triune brain, mindfulness etc.
    Thankyou

  16. Jan Kingston says:

    Thank you! Great to have to teach people. Appreciate your putting it out.

  17. Jonn Mumford says:

    Thank you for your continuing work and know that many of us are indebted to you for your dedication and continued invaluable work
    Dr Jonn Mumford

  18. Gabby Punch says:

    Thank you will certainly help with my work with clients and patients. Much appreciated

  19. Andrew Bein says:

    I really appreciate the work and offering client access to the information. I work hard at moving away from the language of “good” and “bad,” especially from a DBT perspective. Because of the inclusion of good/bad language, I would not show this chart to my clients. Just some feedback. –Andrew Bein, Ph.D., LCSW

  20. ruth fitzsimmons says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It will be very helpful to our group as we work with incarcerated women to help demonstrate the real and positive benefit and possible outcomes of developing mindfulness practice and interrupting learned responses.

  21. ruth fitzsimmons says:

    Thank you for this ! It will be very helpful in my work with a team of volunteers with incarcerated women! It will help demonstrate the value of developing mindfulness practices and interrupting learned responses.

  22. Thank you so much for this precious piece of work, it will be most valuable for my clients.

  23. Nicole says:

    Thank you to share this with us, I like to learn and this is a great help.

  24. Rita M. Vanderslice says:

    Hello Dr. Buczynski, I don’t usually comment, but I appreciate your emails. I am not a healthcare professional, however, I teach a meditation-type of class. It is always great to see scientific reinforcement that the brain can change in positive ways.

    Thank you so much for make “complicated” topics understandable for the layman.

    In gratitude,

    Rita V

  25. Caron Williamson says:

    Im a yoga teacher and I love that this science proves what I know to be true from my work and personal practice. Great work, and thank you for sharing in such a clear and concise way.

  26. You are really doing great work to enhance better brain, and when there are better brains people will be able to make wise decision which will enhance development and where there is development we will have a better society and automatically a better world…. More grace to your elbow Dr Ruth

  27. Dr. Dianne Lipscomb says:

    This is an excellent informative and motivational chart for students to understand that they have the power within them to make positive changes.

  28. Jim Lewis says:

    This is a nice visual summary of neuroplasticity and mindfulness. THANKS . A couple things could help with definitions, such as dendritic spines and microglia activity. Keep up the great work
    Jim Lewis

  29. Thanks so much, this is excellent! I’m still having a problem with printing the entire documet and I’m using the PDF link under the graphic. it pulls up the entire document but only prints page 2 twice…page 1 doesn’t print even tho it looks like it will.

    • Amy, MFT, San Francisco says:

      I have the same problem, only the pdf I downloaded doesn’t have page 1 at all, just two copies of page 2.

      • Ce Eshelman says:

        Same here.

      • Kathleen, OTR/L says:

        Me, too. Please email when this is corrected. Thank you,
        Kathleen

  30. Vij says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this valuable teaching tool. Can’t wait to share with my colleagues and clients at work.

  31. Felicia, LMHC, MA, USA says:

    I love this chart. Some clients like all of us are visual learners.

  32. Lynne Sells says:

    Thank you, Dr. Ruth Buczinsky! This comprehensive representation of a new view of ourselves will benefit me and my students. Talking about neuroplasticity has helped, but looking at this poster will make major inroads in understanding and in motivation.

  33. Julie says:

    Thank you

  34. Patricia Weiner says:

    This is a great graphic for the military members I work with and means I won’t have to resort to drawing a much poorer version of this on my dry-erase board every time I explain what’s happening in their brain that is causing their crisis cycle or stress-response. (Is a kid-friendly graphic in the works?) Currently I work on an air force base and the stigma attached to mental health issues prevents many from seeking help for trauma, anxiety, and related-symptoms. I use brain-informed methods to help remove the stigma of mental ‘illness’ and their idea that, despite their mission-ready competencies, they are weak and powerless to effect change. When I explain the ‘dark’ side of neuroplasticity, the relief on their face is easily visible and when I explain the ‘bright’ side of neuroplasticity, they finally experience hope. They are empowered by the knowledge they can develop competencies that will not only help them manage their symptoms, but that could potentially heal what lies behind their symptoms. Thank you for this!

    • Nancy, NICABM Staff says:

      Hi Patricia,

      I forwarded your comment to Ruth. This is so encouraging. Thank you for taking the time to comment on how you will use this with members of our military.

      Best regards,
      Nancy

  35. Louise, MD and health coach, New Zealand says:

    Thank you for this visual representation of the concepts of neuroplasticity – it will be a useful resource for people who preferentially learn through a visual mode.

  36. Julie Psychologist Australia says:

    Thank you for such a concise and remarkably visual diagram. This makes abundantly clear the concepts involved in neuroplasticity. I will use with clients and colleagues.

  37. So much is a mystery unfolding… New knowledge….
    Very exciting to share! Thank you!

  38. I am a psychotherapist and I find it difficult to explain what I don’t thoroughly understand. This is helpful to me and will, undoubtedly, be helpful to my clients. Many thanks!

  39. I am a clinical psychologist who uses neurofeedback as part of (or sometimes all of) treatment. This will obviously help explain how what we are doing affects brain function and the importance of also practicing new patterns of behavior in order to solidify change. Thanks!

  40. R Johanna says:

    I love this diagram and will definitely share with clients. However, when I try to print out a copy from the PDF it excludes the first page and prints the second page twice. The JPEG reduces the size so that it prints as one page and the quality is not as great. Perhaps I’m just a bit technologically challenged. Any ideas?

    • Lisa Syed says:

      I am having the same problem with printing. The PDF has Page 2 twice and no Page 1. I love the graphic, very informative and yet easy to follow. Please provide PDF for Page 1. Thanks.

  41. Willis Blackmore says:

    The message of hope and possibility is always good!

  42. Lori Connors says:

    never mind… found the PDF :)

  43. Bob Dale says:

    did any one else have difficulty printing this graphic?

    • Lori Connors says:

      couldn’t print the entire graphic…

      • NICABM Staff says:

        Hi Lori,

        Please use the PDF version to print, it is just under the infographic.

        • Amy, MFT, San Francisco says:

          The pdf has page 2 twice, no page 1. Could you please provide both pages of the graphic in the pdf? It’s wonderful.

  44. Deb Foshager, LPC, Elgin, Illinois says:

    Thank you so very much! I love the summarized look. It helps bring everything together in my thinking.

  45. Reni Landor says:

    Thanks for this – it is a great infographic and really covers what people need to know to give them hope. I like that you have covered the negatives as well as the positives. The pattern-matching aspect of our brains is so often overlooked.

  46. Liz Graham says:

    Great, can stimulate conversation, curiosity and new exploration.

  47. DK says:

    Love the concept and appreciate the resource. Any chance I missed the “cheat-sheet” for therapists that accompanies this diagram-so then we can explain it to the clients? I am familiar enough with the other concepts but the section “NP can take place when changes occur in.. ” went above my knowledge base.

    • DK, the PDF is just under the infographic.

      • Amy, MFT, San Francisco says:

        The pdf I downloaded has page 2 twice, no page 1. I hope this can be fixed. Thanks.

  48. Very clear and informative… good tool to share info with patients. Hope it can be translated in several languages

  49. Mia worsfield says:

    This is an excellent tool to add to the collection because it clearly and convincingly demonstrates how change is possible, behavioral changes, reprogramming, healing old wounds, correcting health issues is all possible… Allowing the client to believe in their own potential.. That’s most of the work done.. Thanku.. A brilliant resource! .. Much appreciated.. Regards Mia

  50. Mary Ann Cloherty says:

    Brilliantly & simply stated, well done! Thank you for your work in this life enhancing enterprise.

  51. Kathy Digitale says:

    Thank you so much! Although the concepts are familiar, and though we may have intense conversation as we work, or just think about it on our own, this visual + language format is great! When one sees it, there is a dfiferent felt sense that arises….and it is one that opens and encourages the very thing we all long for: the possibility of change! What a great, and useful idea, put into action! Thanks for making it available!

  52. Valerie Feeeley says:

    Love the handout but when I try to print it, the bottom is cut off and there is no way to print the rest.

    • NICABM Staff says:

      Hi Valerie, thank you very much for letting use know. We made a PDF version of it so you can print it without cutting off. Please enjoy.

  53. Christine says:

    Thanks so much for this chart Ruth. It has it ‘in a nutshell’ so to speak. I will find it useful with many patients where the aim is to develop new neural pathways but especially for those who have a somewhat paranoid personality adaptation and tend to be suspicious of many ideas, people and things. Being offered a clear explanation, especially with scientific underpinning, is more than helpful for these patients. By the way . . it’s a great summary for me as the practitioner too!!

  54. Wow, this is a wonderful infographic. I talk to all my clients about neuroplasticity and this will be very helpful.

  55. John Mekrut says:

    Thanks Ruth! A very useful tool.

  56. elaine says:

    This visual really helps understand what is going on in the brain. Thank you.

  57. Bronwen Rutter, Addictions Counsellor, Alberta, Canada says:

    The visual is often so much easier for clients to comprehend–thank you! Very useful tool.

  58. Judith Gordon says:

    Thank you for your courses and articles. I’ve been using these concepts in my work with attorneys to educate them on the impact of stress on the brain and as a way to encourage them to engage in practices such as meditation and exercise. Science prevails!

  59. Thank you, Ruth. Especially for making it a download. Seeing a visual makes this easier to internalize for my clients.

  60. Thank you Ruth! Very useful!

  61. Dr Indira Patil says:

    When scientifically proven findings are shown to the patients it definitely educates them to make their brain resilient. This in turn makes them to help themselves to overcome their problems

  62. Kristi Kelty says:

    This is excellent! As a TBI survivor (from a SAH caused by an AVM), I am eternally grateful to learn about the brain’s miraculous assets. Following my craniotomy I suddenly started composing orchestral themes, and for the last 25 years have very blessed to be able to have some success with my music. Dr. Darrold Treffert has added my name to the database he keeps on patients where this “phenomenon” has occurred. I am thankful each day as I look back now….for this gift of music in my life….which I doubt would be present without having suffered the TBI.

    • Angie Hill says:

      wow, that is very interesting, I am finding the same thing myself! Wow!

  63. Pam G. says:

    The realization that the brain is neutral and “learns” good as well as bad is an “Aha” moment for those struggling with any type of recovery. Thanks for this!

  64. Rebecca says:

    I’m actually working with meditation and neuroplasticity for myself. Just haven’t been the same since that brain tumor! Thanks for the help.

  65. Jean Arthur says:

    Thank you for sharing this. A useful tool.

  66. Chandra says:

    Thank you for putting this out. I do agree with mind being neutral, the direction of thoughts need to be external and can be nurtured. Younger the better.

  67. Laurette, LISW, USA says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Very clear and well proportioned information. Often clients feel so stuck that they believe that they do not have the capacity to change. This illustration confirms that indeed, they do! I look forward to sharing this with my clients.

  68. Normand Gravel says:

    Thanks for that great tool. This will be helpfull for my clients and colleagues!

  69. Very beautifully collated!! Thank you for being so generous.I and my clients will love this!

  70. Thank you! I’ve been Trina to create this myself!!!!!

  71. carol moore says:

    thank you this is very helpful for sharing with clients.

  72. Varghese John says:

    Good guidelines in a nutshell. Thanks.

  73. Mitra Bishop says:

    Thank you! This is especially timely, as we have just begun another Regaining Balance Retreat for Women Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress. We teach them a very grounding, extended outbreath, mindfulness meditation, art-as-journaling, journaling by hand (in the blank journals we give them), and an awareness developing exercise that culminates in each person writing a poem as well as together writing a group poem. We will share your graphic with our group; thank you so much for making it available!

  74. Ellen says:

    This is great stuff to learn to know! Yoga is the healing tool in my life. Mindfulness and enjoying a meditation and yoga practice keeps me calm and peaceful. I feel like I clear my brain of negative thoughts and emotions each time. It is clear to me that our breath and connection to source are key to help sustain focus and eliminate what does serve you. I am ! Grateful ! The one thing I would like to improve in my brain is memory. How can I do that?? Some people have the most remarkable memories and others are just like me! Is is what we choose? Why do Iremember certain things and not others randomly? This is my question to you about changing the brain! Thank you for your insight !!

  75. ghassan Qutob says:

    Great resource & clear illustration . Thanks for sharing

  76. Irene Kennedy. LCSW, Raleigh, NC says:

    Thank you for this awesome visual! My brain lights up as I look at it, and I feel energy running through me. This diagram connects all the dots of new neuroscience I’ve been accumulating for several years. It’s a new tool for my working memory. It’s a great tool for helping others understand themselves and see how to participate in one’s own healing. It offers a plan and hope!

  77. Sarah Baker says:

    Thank you – I can see a lot of uses for this with my clients as part of the psycho-educational process

  78. Thank you!!

  79. Jamie coscia says:

    Great tool..thanks for sharing

  80. Geneveive, Osteopathic Chiropractor & Teacher says:

    Neuroplasticity gives me great hope for the future: a cure for various mental illnesses, dementia + PTSD.

  81. Vanessa Miles says:

    Absolutely brilliant – something that I can use with some of my young people who are dependant on mind-altering substances. Thank you so much for this.

  82. Edith USA says:

    It is helpful to have all the info presented so clearly and in one place.

  83. Mychal Love says:

    This chart is great because most of the clients I talk to understand that positive effects of neuroplasticity, but don’t realize that negative patterns, repeated over time become entrenched as well and these too can be changed, albeit, slowly and with some difficulty, but still can be changed.

  84. tracey says:

    This flow chart would useful in palm size to put into purse wallet ; to be easily referred to when needing a prompt to remind yourself of the steps involved in change.

  85. Erika says:

    This is such a great piece of psychoed, I’m excited to share it with clients. Thank you for creating and generously sharing this chart!

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