Friday, November 20, 2009

Rewiring the post-stroke brain

A summary of a study done in the town where I live. Sometimes, you read about a report that mirrors your own experience. Like those studied in research on pushing the brain to find new pathways, I felt my brain rewiring itself for far longer than six months:
Until recently, scientists believed that, following a stroke, a patient had about six months to regain any lost function. After that, patients would be forced to compensate for the lost function by focusing on their remaining abilities. Although this belief has been refuted, a University of Missouri occupational therapy professor believes that the current health system is still not giving patients enough time to recover and underestimating what the human brain can do given the right conditions.

In a recent article for OT Practice Magazine, Guy McCormack, clinical professor and chair of the occupational therapy and occupational science department at the MU School of Health Professions, argues that health practitioners believe their clients need more time and motivation to reclaim lost functions, such as the use of an arm, hand or leg. With today's therapies, it is possible for patients to regain more function than ever thought possible, McCormack said.

"Patients are able to regain function due to the principle of neuroplasticity, or the brain's ability to change, especially when patients continue therapy long after their injuries," McCormack said. "Therapists once believed the brain doesn't develop new neurons; but, now they know neurons change their shape and create new branches to connect with other neurons, rewiring the brain following an injury or trauma."
Sometimes, it's hard for stroke survivors to learn patience - myself included. I felt so much frustration on reading and writing, finding the wrong words when speaking. In particular, volume or tone was wrong, or I would mixup pronouns - calling a guy a "her" or a woman a "him." Weird.

On some days, I could even feel that I my brain had moved up one more notch. One in particular was very close to home. I was in much (St. James United Methodist, in Little Rock) and was during a hymn. I had felt like I could no longer carry a tune. But on that day, suddenly I gained some ground; I could have sworn that I felt it.

So in a house of worship, I lifted up my own little prayer.

Patience is hard sometimes. But this study gives some hope that even months and months post-stroke, rewiring is possible.

1 comment:

leehuck said...

A career as an occupational therapy will offer you a great number of benefits, rewards and other positive factors. From one person to the next, every individual may have a different reason for getting started down this path, or for why they love it as much as they do. Visit this site for the details.