Ability of certain solids to flow or to change shape permanently when subjected to stresses between those that produce temporary deformation, or elastic behaviour, and those that cause failure of the material, or rupture (see fracture). Plasticity allows a solid under the action of outside forces to become permanently deformed without rupturing; elasticity enables a solid to return to its original shape after the load is removed. Plastic deformation occurs in many metal-forming processes (rolling, pressing, forging, wire drawing) and in geologic processes (rock folding and rock flow within the Earth under extremely high pressures and at elevated temperatures).

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Capacity of neurons and neural networks in the brain to change their connections and behaviour in response to new information, sensory stimulation, development, damage, or dysfunction. Rapid change or reorganization of the brain's cellular or neural networks can take place in many different forms and under many different circumstances. Neuroplasticity occurs when neurons in the brain sprout and form synapses. As the brain processes sensory information, frequently used synapses are strengthened while unused synapses weaken. Eventually, unused synapses are eliminated completely in a process known as synaptic pruning, which leaves behind efficient networks of neural connections. Neuroplasticity occurs during development in childhood, following physical injury such as loss of a limb or sense organ, and during reinforcement of sensory information such as in learning. Neuroplasticity forms the basis of research into brain-computer interface technology, in which computers are designed to interact with the brain to restore sensation in people with an impaired sense such as the loss of vision. Research on neuroplasticity is also aimed at improving scientists' understanding of how to reactivate or deactivate damaged areas of the brain in people affected by stroke, emotional disorders, chronic pain, psychopathy, or social phobia; such research may lead to improved treatments for these conditions.

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Plasticity generally means ability to permanently change or deform. (It differs from "elasticity", which refers to ability to change temporarily and revert back to original form.)

More specific meanings include:

In the sciences

  • Plasticity (physics): In physics and engineering, plasticity is the propensity of a material to undergo permanent deformation under load. In civil engineering, plasticity of a soil is quantitatively determined by Atterberg Limits testing
  • Plasticity (psychology): An intelligence factor that determines the ease of changing ones perception of a situation for finding a new solution to a problem. Lack of plasticity is termed rigidity.
  • Phenotypic plasticity: Describes the degree to which an organism's phenotype is determined by its genotype
  • Neuroplasticity: Entire brain structures can change to better cope with the environment. Specifically, when an area of the brain is damaged and non-functional, another area may take over some of the function. This is known as neuroplasticity.
    • Synaptic plasticity: In neuroscience, plasticity is a property of a neuron or synapse to change its internal parameters in response to its history
  • Plasticity (tissues): In body tissues, plasticity refers to the ability of differentiated cells to undergo transdifferentiation
  • Plasticity (Cabaret Voltaire album)

In art

  • The plastic arts are those, such as clay sculpture, in which material is formed or deformed into a new, permanent shape


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