The brain is a powerful and mysterious organ, capable of remarkable feats of healing and regeneration. When it comes to traumatic brain injury (TBI), many survivors are left wondering if the brain can heal itself.
Fortunately, the answer is yes. Through the process of neuroplasticity, the brain is capable of repairing itself and has proven to be incredibly resilient. In this article, we will explore the power of neuroplasticity and how it can help the brain heal itself after a traumatic brain injury.
What is Neuroplasticity?
The term neuroplasticity refers to a brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. It refers to a brain’s ability to change, reorganise or grow neural networks as a result of experience.
Functional changes can occur as a result of brain damage or structural changes as a result of learning.
The term ‘plasticity’ refers to the brain’s malleability or ability to change rather than its actual plasticity. Neurons are the nerve cells that make up the brain and nervous system. Neuroplasticity refers to these nerve cells’ ability to change or adapt.
Enhancing recovery through Neuroplasticity
Scientists previously believed that our brain cells faded with age and eventually stopped being renewed, but recent research into the field of neurobiology has shown us that that is not true. So, in reality, researchers have found that the brain is fluid and is continuously undergoing changes during a person’s entire life.
Your brain is shaped constantly by the experiences that you have. New pathways may be created while other pathways fall into disuse. These neurons or brain cells create the pathways and connections to deliver messages responsible for every bodily function.
Once the brain is damaged by injury or stroke, the pathways in it become disrupted. And since they interfere with communication, that makes it hard for survivors to work and participate in daily life.
Thanks to neuroplasticity, communication among neurons can be rewired, and thus the brain can regain some of its functions.
Can the brain heal itself?
In other words, can the brain heal itself from damage? Yes, it can – with the help of neuroplasticity!
Healthy parts of the brain can compensate for damaged parts of the brain through neuroplasticity.
GPS may suggest an alternative route if a street or freeway entrance has been blocked, which may be unfamiliar and take longer to navigate. Neuroplasticity can be viewed in the same way.
The importance of repetition
How can you activate neuroplasticity after brain injury? A task’s neural connections become stronger as you practice it repeatedly, or through massed practice.
In addition to adapting to experiences, the brain also strengthens certain pathways when it encounters a certain experience or action repeatedly.
Walking in safe environments can improve your ability to walk, and leg exercises can help you strengthen your body and become more mobile.
For example, if your dominant hand was affected, you may be tempted to use your non-dominant hand instead, especially when eating.
However, non-use of your dominant hand can potentially diminish movement in it. To prevent this from happening, you should use your dominant hand as much as possible. The popular phrase “use it or lose it” comes from here.
Pushing through during recovery
When the brain is injured, there’s heightened brain plasticity, in which the brain spontaneously repairs itself. Frequently after a brain injury, a person often sees significant progress in their function. Therapy may be significantly more visible during this time.
Some may worry, when their period of hope following a disaster passes, whether recovery is still possible for them.
Understand that neural plasticity does not necessarily stop when one has achieved his or her new mental health goal, but it may slow down. Sometimes one can feel that one’s recovery has stalled during this period. If you are going through these stalls, they are part of the recovery process, which is often found after brain injury.
Yes, progress will not be as fast as it was when you started therapy, but your brain is still changing. And since neuroplasticity never stops, rehabilitation needs to be continuous.
It may not happen as rapidly or be as noticeable as it once was, but you must keep on practicing in order for the brain to heal itself.
Restoring function with Neuroplasticity
However, no matter how mild or severe your injury is, there is hope to recover lost functions with the help of neuroplasticity. The best way to stimulate neuroplasticity is through repetition and consistency.
Lots of the brain pathways and connections are damaged when a person sustains a brain injury, but with consistent practice, improvements can still be made. Living with a brain injury requires neuroplasticity to allow for rehabilitation and to make for a more active life.