MckayAP PsychologyFebruary 1 2018Plasticity of the Brain After a StrokeThe brain is able to reorganize itself, both physically and functionally, after a traumatic event such as a stroke, due to its plasticity. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted, either by a blood clot, or obstruction of an artery. This can lead to an accumulation of fluid/pressure on the brain and the disruption of the sodium-potassium pump. After a stroke, certain parts of the brain can become damaged, and the functions that were once stored in those parts of the brain become impaired. For example, a stroke can cause damage to parts of the brain responsible for learning, thinking, judgement, awareness, and problem solving.However, researchers have found that adult brain cells can reorganize themselves after being damaged, due to neuroplasticity.
Plasticity refers to the capability of something being molded or reorganized, and neurons are the nerve cells in your brain. Therefore, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to repair and reorganize cells. It allows your brain to rewire functions that were once held in damaged areas of the brain over to new, healthy parts of the brain. This is done by sprouting new synaptic connections and creating new pathways to unaffected parts of the brain. After a stroke, the brain goes through phases that lead to recovery. The first phase is the reversal of diaschisis, which is the loss or change of a function in a portion of the brain connected to a damaged brain area.
The last two phases include the changing in the properties of existing neuronal pathways and neuroanatomical plasticity leading to the formation of new neuronal connections. The structural components of neural plasticity determine the complexity of neuronal networks and their activity, and contribute to recovery after a stroke.In general, the best recoveries are associated with the greatest return toward the normal state of brain functional organization. Reorganization of surviving central nervous system elements supports behavioral recovery, for example, through changes in interhemispheric lateralization, and organization of cortical representational maps.Although the brain’s plasticity is a large part in the recovery process, rehabilitative training may speed up the neuronal plasticity processes. Rehab exercises that stimulate the brain are necessary in assisting the brain’s natural recovery procedure. Also, in order for neuroplasticity to occur, repetition is necessary. A person recovering from a stroke needs to utilize a high number of repetitions during their rehab exercises, otherwise it won’t work that well.
The more a person practices and repeats an exercise over and over, the stronger the new pathways in their brain become. Neuroplasticity is nothing without good reinforcement and diligence. In fact, recent advances in technology allow patients to receive therapy at their homes at their convenience, motivating them to take control of their therapy.Previously, humans thought that the brain is plastic only during childhood and once you reach adulthood, the brain is hardwired, and no new changes can be made to it.
However, we now know that even the adult brain can be modified and reorganized depending on what new information it is learning.