Beechwood NeuroRehab Clubhouse will be hosting the 14th Annual Conference of IBICA (International Brain Injury Clubhouse Alliance)! Click here for more information or visit http://braininjuryclubhouses.net.
By: Scott S.
I am writing about neuroplasticity because it relates directly to me and other victims of brain damage that I live and work with on a daily basis. It is this neuroplasticity that can give brain damaged people a second chance at substantial independence. Despite deceased neural tissue, neuroplasticity will allow healthy brain cells to do what the lost ones had achieved previously. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change at a micro level, known as neuroplasticity, or at the macro level, known as behavioral plasticity.
Neurologic exercises will directly influence behavioral plasticity which allows the brain to respond to environmental changes or changes in the organism itself. For example, prior to my brain damage I was left handed. Post-injury I was able to teach myself to print with my right hand. My manual dexterity will not allow cursive writing, but I’m happy to have slow but legible printing with my right hand. Some skills are more preferable to none. There is a distinction between compensation and recovery; both are responsible for observed improvements. Plasticity infers changes in neocortex activity related to the things performed such as action perception and cognition. Recovery implies completing a task in the same way as before the nerve damage. Compensation refers to finding another method to come to the same (or almost the same) conclusion.
Dr. Daniel Amen is a psychiatrist who specializes in medical imaging, especially SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography). This is part of a nuclear medicine study that looks at blood flow and activity in the brain. Amen and colleagues built the world’s largest database of brain scans related to behavior. The results are intriguing: Illnesses like ADHD, anxiety, depression and addictions have multiple subtypes. People with traumatic brain injury can have the same symptoms but different brain scans. For example, a mild traumatic brain injury is a major cause of psychiatric illness.
Intensive rehabilitation can literally change people’s brains (neuroplasticity). You are not stuck with the brain you have. Part of this rehabilitation is to focus on trying to rebuild connection between the nerve cells or neurons. This re-wiring of the brain can make it possible to complete a function previously done by the damaged area to be completed by healthy brain tissue. The word for this is neurogenesis. Or the generation of new brain cells. The connection between brain nerve cells is infinitely possible using this process. Neuroplasticity along with time and willpower will open doors we may have lost sight of! Observations have supported the positive benefits of continued neurological therapy after the usual brief therapy programs. Please accept that often improvement can become a reality and it is quite important, perhaps even necessary to accept and even experience pride in your acceptance and mastery of the “new you!”
The Power of Words
It has been nearly 25 years since Kathie Snow, an author and public speaker, published her first article addressing the notion of “People-First Language”. Inspired by her son Benjamin, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was four months old, Snow encouraged everyone to utilize “People-First Language”, which puts the person before the disability and describes what a person has, not who a person is. For example, saying “she has autism” instead of “she’s autistic” or “people with disabilities” instead of “the handicapped or disabled”.
Fast forward to 2016 and Snow is still making the rounds to educate parents, educators, and the general public about language sensitivity and an updated article entitled “To Ensure Inclusion, Freedom, and Respect for all, we must use People First Language” is utilized as a handout for training programs around the country. In the article, Snow makes several interesting observations including the fact that “people with disabilities constitute our nation’s largest minority group” (one in five Americans has a condition that is considered to be a disability) and also points out that this group is the only one that any person can become a part of, at any time.
Each person struggles and succeeds in different ways. There are very few people out there who would prefer to be categorized by their “problems” (whether it is a physical disability, depression, anxiety, obesity, anorexia, or a number of other common issues) rather than the qualities, talents, and characteristics that make us all unique. The sooner we embrace and utilize “People-First Language”, the sooner we can embrace each other as individuals and work to make this world a better place for everyone.