Since we talk so much about how important neuroplasticity is for retraining the brain, we thought that it would be a good idea to discuss it in detail, but break it down so it’s easy to understand.
So what exactly is neuroplasticity, you ask? Just in case you’ve managed to miss all the hype, neuroplasticity is an umbrella term referring to the ability of your brain to reorganize itself, both physically and functionally, through experiences to your environment, behavior, thinking, and emotions. If you’ve had a stroke, chances are part of your brain was damaged either from a clot or bleed, resulting in decreased function in some area of your body; or you’ve experienced a change in your behavior. Your brain now needs to find a new ‘pathway’ to perform the things that you once didn’t have to think about.
If you want to maximize your recovery, then understanding and applying the concept of neuroplasticity to your regimen will help you harness your brain’s full healing potential.
So here it is, the 10 principles of Neuroplasticity (In normal language)
Principle 1: Use it or Lose it
The skills we don’t practice often get weaker. If you don’t give the hand or leg an opportunity to work, it will stop working because you are not engaging the area of the brain often enough.
Principle 2: Use it and Improve it
This one is pretty self explanatory. The skills we practice will get better. Great!
Principle 3: Specificity (it needs to be a specific task)
We must do the task we want to improve. The task has to be challenging and lead to skill learning, not just repeated movement.
Principle 4: Repetition Matters
If you’re practicing your rehab exercises sporadically, you’re not going to see results. Your brain needs a high number of repetitions in order to successfully rewire itself and heal.
Principle 5: Intensity Matters
More repetitions in a shorter time are necessary for creating new connections.
Principle 6: Time Matters
The earlier you can start therapy after your stroke or injury, the better. Research shows you can always make improvements, but the greatest opportunity for brain changes is early on.
Principle 7: Salience Matters (it needs to be important or meaningful)
To change the brain, the skill we’re practicing must have some meaning, relevance, or importance to us.
Principle 8: Age Matters
You can teach an old dog new tricks, but younger brains tend to change faster than older brains. It’s just how it is.
Principle 9: Transference
Practicing one skill can result in improvement of a related skill. For example, practicing pinching a cube can lead to being able to pick up a grape.
Principle 10: Interference
Learning an “easier way” of doing something (i.e. a bad habit or compensation) may make it harder to learn the proper way. So even if it’s more difficult, try to perfect your movements.
We hope this helps to simplify some terms and let you know that change IS possible., The bottom line is, there are no quick fixes with recovery. But, if you put in the work consistently with high repetitions, you WILL see improvements.
You got this, now go retrain your brain!