Total Pageviews

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Speaking further about plasticity, which is our brain’s physical ability to adapt and change. It’s very interesting. Extensive perpetual plasticity has been documented in healthy, normally functioning nervous systems. Leaving neuroscientist to conclude that our brain is always in flux, adapting to even the smallest shifts in behavior.   For example, every time we learn something new our brain has the ability to strengthen. Whether it’s learning a new dance step or playing the violin. Our brain also has the ability to weaken whether it’s forgetting directions or a recipe. “Our brains our constantly changing in response to our experiences and our behavior, reworking their circuitry with each sensory input, motor act, association, reward signal, action pal or shift of awareness, “ quotes Alvaro Pascual- Leone. What was thought before was that the brain was hard wired once we hit twenty-one years old. Now this idea about plasticity has changed the game entirely. Different regions of the brain are associated with different mental functions; the cellular components do not form permanent structures or play rigid roles. They’re flexible. They change with experience, circumstance and need. There was a study done on a person who was deemed blind. The part of the brain that had been dedicated to processing visual stimuli doesn’t just disappear or go dark. It shifts. It is taken over by the circuits used by audio processing or hearing. So in effect their sense of hearing becomes stronger. The loss of one ability translates into the strengthening of  another ability. “When their usual input disappears, they start responding to the next best thing,” explains Nancy Kanwisher of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research. Another experiment was done by Edward Taub on a man who had a stroke that damaged the right half of his brain that controlled the left half of his body. Taub would have him carry out routine everyday tasks for as many as eight hours a day six days a week. For example, one day he might wash the pane of the window. The next he might trace the letters of the alphabet. The repeated actions were a means of coaxing his neurons and synapse to form new circuits that would take over the functions once carried out by the circuits in damaged areas of his brain. In a matter of weeks, he regained nearly all of the movements in his hands and legs. He could perform his everyday routines again and throw away his cane.  Much of Taub’s other patients have experienced similarly strong recoveries as well. Much of early evidence to neuroplasticity came about by the study of the brain’s reaction to injuries. Perhaps, they theorized plasticity is essentially a healing mechanism, triggered by trauma to the brain or the sensory organs. This gives new hope for people suffering from a brain injury or mental illness. Whereas before when the brain was thought to be had wired there was not much hope. Plasticity is also been said to start to help Alzheimer’s patients. Visual defects are part of Alzheimer’s so people stricken with the disease tend to eat less because they can’t see the food before them. Scientists are trying to work on new methods to give families and people who suffer with the disease hope and new methods of treatment to help stop the disease or at least try to reverse it.
By Kelsey Coughlin

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading your post had lots of information from the book and links it to some outside information you acquired yourself.
    -Clifford McKeon