Chiropractic Meridian ID Neuroplasticity Blog

Every 40 seconds a life is changed and for 25% this is the second time it has happened in 5 years (2). It starts with symptoms that range from uncomfortable to paralyzing:

  • Severe Headache
  • Double Vision
  • Dizziness/Vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Facial Droop
  • Slurring Speech

Stroke is a devastating event that can leave individuals with long-term disability and impairments. The traditional approach to stroke rehabilitation has focused on compensatory strategies to help individuals with the loss of function caused by the stroke. For many they have been told they are at maximum medical improvement and can’t get any better, but in my experience for most this isn’t exactly true.

This is due to advances in neuroscience and a better understanding of neuroplasticity and its potential to promote recovery after stroke. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of  neuroplasticity and its benefits in stroke rehabilitation.


WHAT IS NEUROPLASTICITY?

Remember the old adage, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well, it isn’t exactly right when we understand how to harness neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to adapt and change in response to stimulation. The brain is not a fixed organ, but rather a dynamic system that can reorganize and create new connections between neurons. This ability of the brain to change is critical for learning, memory, and recovery from injury.

Neuroplasticity is about learning and changing based upon stimulation which means it can be positive or negative. Knowing how to harness positive plasticity while avoiding the negative is essential.


NEUROPLASTICITY IN STROKE REHABILITATION

Stroke is caused by a disruption of blood flow to the brain, resulting in damage to brain cells. The extent of the damage depends on the severity and location of the stroke. The brain can recover from stroke and improve residual symptoms by using neuroplasticity to reorganize and create new connections between neurons.

In stroke rehabilitation, the goal is to promote neuroplasticity to help the brain recover from the damage caused by the stroke. This is done by providing specific stimulation to target the injured part of the brain to create new connections and reorganize existing ones. Rehabilitation activities can include physical exercises, cognitive exercises, and activities of daily living.


THE BENEFITS OF NEUROPLASTICITY IN STROKE REHABILITATION

The benefits of neuroplasticity in stroke rehabilitation are numerous. Some of these benefits include:

  1. Improved Motor Function: Neuroplasticity can help the brain create new connections between neurons that control movement. This can result in improved motor function, balance, and coordination after stroke.
  2. Increased Independence: By promoting neuroplasticity, stroke rehabilitation can help individuals regain their independence and reduce their reliance on caregivers.
  3. Reduced Disability: Neuroplasticity can help reduce the degree of disability caused by stroke. This can improve quality of life and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.
  4. Faster Recovery: By promoting neuroplasticity, stroke rehabilitation can help individuals recover faster and return to their pre-stroke level of function.
  5. Improved Cognitive Function: Neuroplasticity can also help improve cognitive function after stroke, including memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.
  6. Improvement Years Later: Neuroplasticity-based rehabilitation can help individuals see improvement even if it has been years since the injury occurred and you feel you plateaued.

HOW TO PROMOTE NEUROPLASTICITY IN STROKE REHABILITATION

To promote neuroplasticity in stroke rehabilitation, it is important to provide experiences that challenge the brain and stimulate the creation of new connections between neurons. Here are some ways to promote neuroplasticity in stroke rehabilitation:

  1. Task-Specific Training: Task-specific training involves practicing activities that are relevant to the individual’s goals and needs. This can include physical activities, such as walking or reaching, or cognitive activities, such as problem-solving or memory tasks.
  2. Repetitive Practice: Repetitive practice involves repeating the same task multiple times to reinforce the neural connections involved in that task. Think about the brain like a muscle, you wouldn’t do one bicep curl and expect results.
  3. Feedback: Providing feedback on performance can help individuals understand how to improve their performance and create new neural connections.
  4. Intensity: Intensity refers to the amount of time and effort spent on rehabilitation activities. The more something is reinforced with higher intensity rehabilitation the quicker it may lead to better outcomes in stroke rehabilitation.
  5. Novelty: The brain likes new experiences as it challenges the brain and stimulates the creation of new connections. If something starts becoming easy it is time to mix it up.
  6. Multimodal Training: Multimodal training involves combining different types of rehabilitation activities, such as physical and cognitive exercises, to stimulate multiple areas of the brain. This also involves taking task-specific training and stacking the activities together to create synergy for a better outcome.
  7. Environmental Enrichment: Providing a stimulating environment can also promote neuroplasticity in stroke rehabilitation. This can include exposure to music, art, and social activities.

It is important to be patient with yourself as the road may be long. There is a difference in completely regaining a function and maintaining a function that fades as the day progresses. For example, having a foot drop that is only present as the day goes on is much easier to improve when compared to a foot drop present all the time.


THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY IN PROMOTING NEUROPLASTICITY IN STROKE REHABILITATION

Technology has played an increasingly important role in stroke rehabilitation by providing new tools and techniques to promote neuroplasticity in a way that wasn’t possible before. Some of the technologies used in stroke rehabilitation include:

  1. Virtual Reality: Virtual reality can provide a safe and controlled environment for stroke rehabilitation, allowing individuals to practice activities in a virtual world.
  2. Robotics: Robotics can assist with therapy by providing controlled movements that can promote neuroplasticity.
  3. Brain Stimulation: Brain stimulation techniques, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), can directly stimulate the brain to promote neuroplasticity (1,3).
  4. Wearable Technology: Wearable technology, such as sensors and smartwatches, can provide feedback on performance and encourage individuals to engage in rehabilitation activities.

IDAHO BRAIN AND BODY STROKE TREATMENT

At IBBI we harness the power of neuroplasticity through advanced diagnostics and therapeutics to create an individualized treatment plan for you. Part of the treatment plan is about restoring optimal function, but the other part is focused on preventing another stroke from occurring as 25% of strokes in a given year are from someone who previously had one (2).

If you are ready to take your recovery to a new level and believe it is possible then reach out today.

References:

  • Du, J., Yang, F., Hu, J., Hu, J., Xu, Q., Cong, N., Zhang, Q., Liu, L., Mantini, D., Zhang,
    Z., Lu, G., & Liu, X. (2019). Effects of high- and low-frequency repetitive transcranial
    magnetic stimulation on motor recovery in early stroke patients: Evidence from a
    randomized controlled trial with clinical, neurophysiological and functional imaging
    assessments. NeuroImage. Clinical, 21, 101620.
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2018.101620
  • Tsao CW, Aday AW, Almarzooq ZI, Beaton AZ, Bittencourt MS, Boehme AK, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2023 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2023;147:e93–e621.
  • Yeung, J. T., Young, I. M., Doyen, S., Teo, C., & Sughrue, M. E. (2021). Changes in the Brain Connectome Following Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for StrokeRehabilitation. Cureus, 13(10), e19105. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.19105