Is it possible to rewire your brain

Post-stroke neuroplasticity: how the brain rewires itself to recover from injury

On average, the brain uses 100 trillion neural connections to send and retrieve information. When some of these connections are damaged by injury like stroke, they can actually go through a process called Neuroplasticity grow again.

Although you can't reverse brain damage, neuroplasticity can rewire functions into new, healthy areas of the brain. This helps compensate for the damage suffered after a stroke.

You are about to learn how neuroplasticity helps with stroke recovery, and what you can do to maximize your potential.

Post-stroke neuroplasticity works differently for everyone

First, it's important to understand that every brain is organized differently and every stroke is different. As a result, every stroke recovery will be different.

Understanding the area of ​​your stroke will help you anticipate the possible side effects that may occur. There is no exact answer, but it will give you important insight.

For example, a stroke in the left hemisphere can cause language difficulties, since this is where the brain's language center is usually located.

To overcome language difficulties, neuroplasticity comes into play by allowing the brain to create new neural connections elsewhere in the brain that control language.

Think of it like a sophisticated storage system. If a filing cabinet is destroyed, you can use another cabinet. But it takes hard work to recreate all of the documents and put them back down.

The process takes time and effort, but it's worth it. Neuroplasticity is how stroke patients can regain lost skills and regain their independence.

This begs the question, how exactly can you activate neuroplasticity?

Activation of neuroplasticity with mass practice

Neuroplasticity is experience and learning dependent. This means that whatever you experience over and over again or practice over and over again determines how the brain reshapes.

For example, mathematicians spend many hours a day practicing arithmetic.

As a result of their experience, mathematicians have increased gray matter in the areas of the brain responsible for arithmetic. Your brain has become efficient at solving math problems.

You can apply this concept to any skill you want to do better, such as: B. moving the arm or memorizing facts. It just takes practice.

Therapists often refer to this as mass practice, and it is key to stroke recovery.

Recover lost skills with post-stroke neuroplasticity

It is important to take advantage of neuroplasticity at every stage of the stroke recovery process.

For example, neuroplasticity is at its "peak" immediately after a stroke. Therefore, stroke rehabilitation begins on the 1st day. Rehabilitation specialists work hard to start the healing process as quickly as possible in order to maximize recovery.

Throughout the continuum of care, therapists focus on the use of mass practice to help stroke patients improve the side effects of stroke.

For example, physical therapists will help stroke patients practice physical therapy stroke exercises to improve mobility. The exercises are practiced repeatedly to stimulate neuroplasticity and recruit new brain tissue to control movement.

Similarly, speech therapists encourage patients to practice speech therapy exercises to improve language skills. Exercises are done repeatedly to stimulate the brain and promote neuroplasticity.

Essentially any skill you can practice is likely to be regained. Sensory problems such as numbness after a stroke can also be resolved by practicing sensory re-education exercises.

If you can practice it, the brain can get better thanks to neuroplasticity.

BDNF also helps neuroplasticity

Aside from mass practice, there is another well-studied way to improve neuroplasticity: increasing the neurotrophic factor (BDNF) by the brain.

BDNF is a protein that supports and promotes the growth of new neurons and synapses, which is crucial for neuroplasticity.

One way to boost BDNF is with aerobic exercisethat includes any type of exercise that increases your heart rate, such as brisk walking or cycling.

If mobility restrictions after a stroke prevent you from aerobic exercise, speak to an occupational therapist. He / she can recommend adaptive exercise equipment that can help.

Another way to boost BDNF is through the consumption of certain foods. For example, omega-3s have been shown to normalize BDNF, and you can get it from salmon or chia seeds.

See BDNF-promoting foods for stroke regeneration »

Find hope for recovery from stroke

Although the brain is in an increased state of plasticity immediately after the stroke, neuroplasticity can occur at any time. Whether it's been a few months or a few decades since the stroke, the brain is still able to heal and rewire.

Studies have shown that the brain changes over the course of your life. This means that the recovery is never "over". Whenever you start stimulating your brain with positive, consistent, repetitive stimuli, the brain will respond.

The brain never gives up, and neither does you. We hope your new understanding of neuroplasticity inspires you on the path to recovery.