Neuroplasticity

Introduction

While useful for everyone, understanding plasticity is most important for those people who ‘fell through the net,’ and haven’t had any specialist medical support since their brain injury. 

Because of a history of being persistently dismissed and of having their symptoms treated only with prescription medications, many people never revisit their doctor for help.

People lose hope of ever having adequate recognition of their outcomes and symptoms and are not given the same information as those who follow a treatment or rehabilitative pathway.

Left alone, people can be unaware that the brain is able to rewire itself and, as such, cognitive and executive functioning will continue to improve, albeit slowly.

There is a real need to bring that hope back for those struggling alone, often for many years or even decades,

Unbelievably many people never actually receive a formal diagnosis of brain injury. Because of a continuing lack of awareness amongst doctors, many people are considered malingerers and these attitudes rub off diminishing the motivation people have. They end up just trying to get on with things the best they can.

The Science

Recent advances in neuroscience and neurorehabilitation medicine show the brain has a capacity to heal itself. Following injury the brain reorganises itself and undergoes structural and physiologic changes. 

Not all brain tissue regenerates but parts of the brain which were not damaged can take over extra tasks. 

Neuroplasticity is the brains’ ability to connect new neural networks and pathways. Effectively, it rewires itself.

Since there is no point in reinventing the wheel, we would like to share this video from ‘The Sentis Brain Animation Series.‘ While this is not specific to brain injury, it does explain how plasticity works succinctly and clearly.

Because the understanding of neuroplasticity supports a need for rehabilitation, even many years after an injury occurred, this opens opportunities to people so that they can get the help they need.

Understanding plasticity also empowers people in many other ways. We only have to think of the wounds to our self-esteem, caused by the everyday experiences of brain injury, to know and understand that there are many beliefs we may need to change about ourselves to heal the psychological damage.

Understanding plasticity helps us to know that we can change anything about ourselves that we want to.

When rewiring following a brain injury, it is crucial to understand that it is the brain that is injured – not the person. Think of your brain as a tool that you use rather than it being who you are, and you will make much better progress.

When we learn to separate the attachment of our disabilities from how we think about ourselves, we are playing in a whole new ballpark when it comes to fixing the broken brain. Shifting our perspective can work wonders to change how we feel about ourselves and to how we approach things.

Out-dated understanding can trap people into ways of thinking, but when we embrace all the new science, we are naturally motivated to re-charge our efforts.

The video of Dr Norman Doige speaking about neuroplasticity can also be helpful.