Neuroplasticity- hope for the stroke affected
Neuroplasticity is a fascinating emerging science that changes many aspects of stroke treatment. It has been held for almost four centuries that the brain does not change once developed or damaged ( for example due stroke) . However, latest research indicates that the brain is in fact constantly changing. And can be made to change. Indeed every thought and experience may be changing the brain and it is by no means ‘hard-wired’ .
This characteristic of the brain is known as neuroplasticity. It is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.
Neuroplasticity was first extensively researched and elaborated upon by Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, who worked on this for almost forty years. But only in his final years was he able to see all his experiments and efforts reach fruition. Using a device based on his research he showed that when certain brain functions are lost, the brain will use ‘back roads’ to reestablish the lost skills or functions.
As all those who are aware even a little bit about stroke and its underlying causes, this has huge implications for stroke treatments.
Another neuroplastician Barbara Arrowsmith Young uses her skills to change cognitive capacity in students with learning disabilities. She overcame her own severe learning disabilities using neuroplasticity. What she does is to target their area of difficulty to bring it up to average and even above average. Likewise, brain scientists the world over are demonstrating over and over that the brain is ‘plastic’ and , in many , cases, its anatomy can be changed by using only imagination !
The documentary ‘ Brain that changes itself‘ presents amazing case studies of people of all ages whose brains have changed and adapted to overcome physical and mental disabilities, including trauma. The documentary is based upon a book of same name by Dr. Norman Doidge who has also done pioneering work in the field.
Here is the documentary on Youtube.
And here is Dr. Barbara Arrowsmith-young at TedX Toronto:
And here is Dr. Norman Doidge explaining neuroplasticity and introducing his book.
For many stroke affected as well as caregivers, including those on our WhatsApp group, this reinforces and validates what they continue to experience themselves – that determination, hope and consistent efforts can and do work miracles !
Kindly share to give hope to all stroke affected and increase awareness. Also please DO support petition to increase Stroke awareness in India, as can be found here. Thank you.
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