Research on the brain has shown the old adage “Use it or lose it” isn’t always accurate.
Brain plasticity is not just for cats*.
At the Taub Clinic* patients are restrained from using the parts of their body that work so they have to try to use the parts affected by stroke. The patients are given exercises and unrelentingly pushed to try doing them. The program is an intense 6 hours a day for 10 days. Eighty percent (80%!) of stroke victims improve, and not just the ones who have had a recent stroke.
Patients start out doing small things such as lifting cans or “washing” tables, writing the ABCs. Slowly, fine motor skills come back.
*I’ve witnessed first hand how with patience and perseverance the brain can be rewired, even the brain of a cat.
After losing the use of his back legs my cat Maui didn’t need a physical therapist, a coach, or a professional of any kind. He had his own reasons to use his back legs again and he just kept at it.
Maui proved the brain is plastic. It took time but by incremental steps Maui rewired his brain and developed new new brain maps for his back legs. His story also inspired our blog about neuroscience and mind-body health on MAXyourMIND
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Constraint-Induced therapy (CI therapy, or CIT) is a family of rehabilitation therapies designed to help “rewire” the brain and thus regain some level of limb function in those who have had an injury or illness such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, brain tumor, or multiple sclerosis. Research pioneered at UAB over the last 25 years by Edward Taub, PhD, has shown that patients can “rewire” their brains and “learn” to improve the function of the more affected parts of their bodies rather than depending on the less-affected parts. These results have been found to be true for both movement of the affected arm or leg as well as the use of language, and the therapy typically produces excellent results. Brain imaging studies have confirmed Constraint-Induced therapy’s effect on the brain as a result of this therapy, indicating that there is “rewiring” of the brain taking place. Constraint-Induced therapy has been found to be effective no matter how long ago the injury or illness occurred so long as the treatment criteria are met.