Monday, July 27, 2015

What Is Neuroplasticity?

Guest Blog:

When I first started my career in health care I worked in physical therapy with head trauma and spinal cord trauma patients. Back then in the late 1970s, science and medicine held that our brain was unalterable, operating much like a computer with a fixed memory and processing power. The mode of treatment was more palliative and symptom related as opposed to proactive ways to help the nervous system rewire itself after a injury.

But now, science has reversed those previously widely held beliefs. Our brain continues to grow, change and repair itself after injury and throughout our lifetime, forming new complex connections. We now know that we have a considerable amount of control over our own brain function and it is dependent on how we use our brain and activate our motor and sensory systems.

Brain neuroplasticity refers to the brains ability to be changed, modified, rewired and be repaired. The changes may be in building new brain cells, forming new connections or strengthening old ones. Our brain changes moment to moment in response to each new experience or new learning or even by ramping up areas of expertise.

Our brain makes us who we are: what we think, feel, desire and imagine. With ongoing new discoveries, we are beginning to appreciate the complexities of the brain. If we realize that our brain is a memory organ and that it can relearn or access old memories, the objective then becomes to stimulate the nervous system to promote healing and repair.

Here are 6 important discoveries about the brain that are making us more aware of the importance of keeping our brain in good operating function.

1. Our brain continues to make new cells every moment of every day that we live.

2. The brain can form complex synapses or connections throughout our entire life.

3. The connections between neurons can be strengthened against weakness with continuous stimulation.

4. There is no limit to brain repair. Previously, it was believed that the window for brain recovery was at most one year after injury. The Center for Brain Health research has shown that the brain can be repaired years after injury if the right intervention is applied.

5. Active cognitive and muscular stimulation can help build new connections after traumatic brain injury, stroke, in normal aging and even in progressive brain disease such as Alzheimer's.

6. Advances in sophisticated brain imaging technology allow us to view changes in the activation of brain regions that occur at the very moment we acquire new knowledge. The changes in brain regions suggest that there is more activation during learning as new connections are developing and less activation after a skill has been acquired.

I believe that it is most important to know that our brain is one of the most modifiable parts of our entire body.It is critical to realize that the brain is the most important aspect of our health, and should be delegated a prominent position of up-front and center focus to keep it healthy.

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