London Silverliner Laween is passionate about education and has been helping our Silverliners understand and explore the concept of neuroplasticity.  We are really pleased that he has given us permission to share his research so you can learn more about the fascinating ability of the brain to adapt after injury.

What is Neuroplasticity?

  • Neuroplasticity is “The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.” 1
  • “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.” 1
  • In simple terms, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to re-wire itself. Your brain constantly changes throughout your life. As it grows and learns new things, it forms new nerve pathways.

Why is Neuroplasticity Important After Brain Injury?

  • Injury to the brain, whatever the cause, can affect: cognitive ability, emotions and behaviour, physical health and mobility, family and social relationships, and continued employment.
  • However, people who have had a brain injury often make remarkable improvements over time. Neurorehabilitation helps the brain make new pathways and re-learn how to do things again.
  • The brain does not produce a significant amount of new nerve cells as an adult. Therefore, the improvements must be due to the brain re-wiring itself. Undamaged parts of the brain try to take over the function of parts of the brain that were damaged by the brain injury.
  • Also, as you get better at doing something, your brain makes new connections.

How Can You Detect Neuroplasticity?

  • Detailed brain imaging scans such as fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) can detect changes in brain activity over time. Consecutive fMRI scans, at defined intervals, must be done in order to detect changes in brain wiring and function.
  • New techniques such as low-level laser therapy (also called photobiomodulation) may enhance neuroplasticity in the brain.

Can You Enhance Neuroplasticity?

  • There are practical ways to improve neuroplasticity including:
  1. Looking after yourself by following a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
  2. Relaxation and meditation techniques.
  3. Doing activities that challenge you. Any activity which is engaging that is also slightly challenging will cause the brain to learn. Such activities include: learning a musical instrument, juggling and using your non-dominant hand for everyday functions.
  4. Doing new things such as: travelling, learning new skills, new languages, art, culture, drama etc.

References:

  1. Medical Definition of Neuroplasticity from www.medicinenet.com : https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=40362 Accessed online on 23-02-2018.