Not long ago, it was believed that our brains were incapable of change throughout our entire lifespan. It was thought that our brain’s structure and development was mostly permanent following infancy and childhood. Decades of research have revolutionized our comprehension of the human brain, allowing for better recovery outcomes for patients with neurological injuries.
Our central nervous system (CNS) is comprised of our brain and spinal cord. After injuries to our CNS, such as a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), we now incorporate principles of neuroplasticity as a key to recovery.
What is neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the ability of our brain and spinal cord to continuously rewire new neuron pathways to enhance motor learning following an injury. Our brain is the command center of our body, and neurons are different cells which specialize in communicating feedback from your body to your mind. Our brains have the capacity to form new neural circuits in response to ongoing activity. These connections are constantly becoming stronger or weaker in response to stimulation, learning, and experience. Our brain’s flexibility for change allow for new networks to enhance our movement and regain functional independence. “Neuroplasticity is also the mechanism by which damaged brain relearns lost behavior in response to rehabilitation” – Kleim & Jones 2008. We now understand our brains ability to adapt and change can occur at any stage of life.
How can Neulife Rehab support neuroplasticity?
Our model of care is based on patient-centered focus. Intensive, focused rehabilitation helps restore function and maximize feedback/feedforward mechanisms to promote long term memory. Research shows the earlier the care, the better the outcome. Neuroplasticity is best targeted by intense repetitious training that challenges the body appropriately. Our skilled therapists focus not only on repetition, but properly dosing activity to the skill level of our clients. Our rehabilitation services help drive CNS reorganization through task specific interventions. Movement is a medicine because continuous practice enhances our brains ability to relearn patterns and form new pathways to return to independence.
Variables that influence neuroplasticity:
• Aerobic exercise and resistance training: improve brain health, increase speed and signaling, improve spatial learning, and decreased DNA damage
• Intensity: frequency, duration, and difficulty
• Use it or lose it: failure to influence movement can lead to functional decline
• Mood: mental health plays a vital role because stress, depression, and fear can negatively influence recovery
• Experience (Activity)
• Age: young brains are more plastic to change
• Cardiorespiratory function