The brain can repair itself

Source: images.wellcome.ac.uk

Behavioral Medicine Associates, Inc. say:

The brain can repair itself

In the past we thought brain damage was permanent. We now know that there is birth of new cells going on in adult brains. In fact a stroke actually has been shown recently to be a stimulus for a higher rate of cell birth in animals. These new cells grow into the regions of damage and can help restore function. What’s important is that the person get good nutrition, minimize stress . . . and place a persistent demand on the brain to perform the impaired function(s). . .  you must understand that the connections between our brain cells are extensively influenced by learning. In other words, we learn to construct the visual world as infants; we learn emotional control, strategies of attention, strategies of learning and memory itself. It is well established that these learnings cause the growth of new neuronal connections. We . . .  may, by rewarding new learning, promote the growth of new, “replacement” connections.

Education regarding what has happened, how the brain functions, the effects of various types of injury begins . . . treatment. Relaxation training is a basic part, since excessive arousal from frustration, anger at the injury, etc. will make things worse.

That being said, I’m as committed as ever to my path to recovery and whole health by learning, learning, and learning some more. Taking care of myself. Getting plenty of rest and good nutrition. Picking and choosing what I do, always with an eye towards what will help me live the best life possible.

You may wish to do the same.

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9 thoughts on “The brain can repair itself

  1. Hooray for the brain being able to repair itself! It will not happen overnight, but it will happen….and you can do it all yourself without fancy equipment or “experts.” Keep at it!

  2. Okay.

    There is limited understanding of neuro-generation – where, to what extent and under what circumstances or even what it means. It seem fairly clear that existing brain cells can and do take on functions for damaged neurons – though there may be a ‘price’ in terms of processing speed. But how much (if indeed anything) can be replaced or recovered through neuro-generation is a huge unknown. Furthermore the extent of injury, location of injury, age of injured, and various other factors (such as psychological issues, drug usage, physical health, support systems) also play a major role in outcomes. Nor is neurogenisis always a benefit – some studies actually suggest that emotional resilience may be related to the non-growth of neurons after trauma.

    Behaviorial Medical Associates are selling their services – so obviously they will make these statements.

    Now having said that I don’t disagree with them – but the position I take is that, unlike drugs their approaches don’t cause harm. There have been demonstrated successes from at least some of these approaches.

    But be forewarned – they are not magic bullets, they cost money and are usually NOT covered by any insurance, and they take time and commitment.

    The outcomes are influenced heavily by age, prior cognitive ability, environment (relationships, economic situation, acceptance by those around you), and general well being.

    Some of these things – including stuff like visual processing and convergence and balance and stability training are part of classic rehab programs – BUT patients often lack the commitment or ability to persist in these programs – they are boring, slow, and repetitive, Most people don’t want to get up a two hours earlier in order to do 20 minutes of eye exercises, followed by 20 minutes of meditation followed by 45 minutes of physical activity.

    Meditation – particular mindfulness training – has been VERY well-documented to improved cognitive functioning, focus, and the ability to manage stress and pain. But again, commitment, and determination – it’s boring, it has slow spots, the improvements are very, very, very subtle – so folks lose interest.

    Likewise how we view events, the story we tell ourselves also influences outcomes and perceptions – it changes the emotional content and much of memory is associated with emotional content. These cognitive behavioral changes – especially when done on a deep level through persistant training can have a lasting impact as they may literally force ‘hardwire change’.

  3. There is some good evidence on neuro-feedback, EEG training and other things, including HBOT that suggests these things are helpful. How helpful is hard to determine But if you have the access, the money, the time etc – then I would go for it because they are non-invasive and have no side effects.

    I take great caution when addictions are involved, severe emotional injury (uncontrollable violence for example), major suicidal depression and other mitigating factors While these things CAN certainly help in those circumstances it is not fast acting or a cure-all. People need to be mindful of all their options and have trusted folks to help them come to decisions that are in their best self interest.

    Furthermore there is a certain amount of self-judgment that BI survivors experience – even they can be perplexed about why they cannot seem to find motivation or complete a task or screw up at work all the time. They feel frustrated and angry with themselves. For many the ‘good’ news of these other therapies is a narrow path – yes, there are solutions that can help but they are slow and not so easy – so if you try to use these methods you may experience a slower recovery (though perhaps more permanent), more setbacks, and a lot of struggle. You may find yourself thinking that things are working because the changes as so infinitesimal.

    And truly there are folks with injuries that are pretty severe – and it can be cruel to have people imagine that their spouse or whoever will be the same as before. That doesn’t mean they are less, just not the same.

    Stress sucks – and sure, avoid it when you can – but it’s a pretty stressful world.

    Learning is good for all brains – injured or not

    Exercise is good

    The best life is the life you have. Really. That doesn’t mean that you can’t keep changing it – even if it’s a great life you still work on it – there is no moment when you suddenly say ‘Success, I have achieved the good life’ nor is there a moment when you say ‘I have failed to achieve the good life’. You always work at it, even when you think you’ve got it down you keep working on it.

  4. Of course an brain is self healing /yet dependent on the injuries or self damage through DRUGS DRINK TOBACCO etc etc etc. It can be a losing battle (the body / brain on a natural course of self healing. While the individual’s may continue with drug taking alcohol abuse etc etc / thus such situation, as much good natural healing process many individuals just continue a course of destruction of self abuse.

    Thus it the case of two steps forward & three steps backward, thus committment by the individual is needed / they giving respect to the body / brain /stop all such actions / that causing self harm /damage.

    {BB: the rest of this comment’s content has removed, due to political content – it’s not that I disagree, that’s just not what this blog is about}

  5. Hooray is right — and thank you for saying that we can do this ourselves. Experts can be helpful, and fancy equipment can come in handy, but there’s nothing like just living your life, to get you back into the swing of things.

    Keep on keepin’ on

  6. Caveat emptor — all buyers beware

    I actually had that post sitting in draft for quite some time, till I decided to post it. I am on the fence about posting things that commercial service providers say — or anyone who has something to sell, for that matter. But I thought it would be a good conversation-starter.

    Actually, thinking about it, if the approaches they offer cost money that isn’t covered by insurance, why bother with them? If we can these things ourselves, and one of the things stopping people from realizing effective results is losing interest/incentive, then why not get in the habit of doing rehab yourself, and doing it for reasons that you provide, versus some commercial service provider?

    As you say, mindfulness meditation has produced some great results. And living life to the fullest (while being patient and gentle with myself) has been shown — in my experience, anyway — to produce the kind of rewiring that a TBI survivor like me needs.

    I think the one thing a program like this could offer is just hope. Hope that change is possible, that healing is possible, that there is a way through this tangled mess of disrupted connections and someone believes in you.

    That’s very interesting about the emotional resilience piece. I often think that my own resilience and flexibility comes directly from a lifetime of running into dead-ends and screw-ups and learning how to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. Sometimes, hurts can help, I guess.

  7. I totally agree about the damage we do to ourselves through drugs, drink & tobacco. In fact, I was just thinking about this, this morning – my friends in recovery from alcoholism/addiction strike me as a bit brain-injured, and many of the aspects of their 12-step programs would probably be really helpful to brain injury survivors in general. I consider heavy-duty alcoholism drug abuse to be a big source of acquired brain injury. You’re killing brain cells, after all.

    Even if we get ourselves on the road to recovery from brain injury, if we persist in self-destructive behavior, all the rehab in the world isn’t going to save us.

    Thanks for writing.

  8. I’m proof the brain heals itself. I was in a serious car accident in 1990. Doctors told my family that my injury was so severe that IF I came out of my coma I would never function at full capacity. But after a long, rough road, I am now a special education teacher. It wasn’t easy, but it can happen.

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