How do you boost neuroplasticity after a traumatic brain injury?  What can you do to ensure that you make the best recovery possible?

Illustration of boosting neuroplasticity, like a rocket for the brain

Neuroplasticity and the Long Haul

Recovery from a traumatic brain injury can be a long and difficult journey. It that may take a number of years, even longer than the two year figure that is often punted.  There are many challenges that lie on that road.  Many survivors have with a variety of long-term problems, from difficulties with memory, to concentration problems, to moodiness and difficulty controlling temper, to loneliness and social isolation.  What if there was a way of optimising recovery, a way of giving your brain the best possible chance?

You may have heard about neuroplasticity.  It is one of the key ingredients in the recipe of recovery.  In the neurosciences, there is a lot of hype about neuroplasticity because it is so important.  In fact, neuroplasticity is something that happens in everyone’s brain all the time.  Everytime you learn something, you literally make a new connection in your brain.  The nerves get rewired as the memory is formed and consolidated.

However, when you have had a brain injury, then you need neuroplasticity to do more than simply support memory function.  Then, you need healthy nerves to take over the function of damaged nerves.  For people with brain injury, that is the crucial element of neuroplasticity.  Shifting functions from injured nerves to healthy nerves.  That requires a significant amount of rewiring in the brain. It’s a complex neurobiological task.

Reshaping the Brain

Illustration depicting neuroplasticity in the brain

We can help you boost neuroplasticity, even years after a traumatic brain injury.  To do that, we use two interventions.  Firstly, we give you a substance to take that your brain uses when it forms dendritic spines.  That is the process by which a synapse is formed in the brain, which is where two nerves connect.  A new connection happens when the axon of one nerve synapses with the dendrite of another nerve.  To reinforce that connection, the dendrite sprouts a small little outgrowth that we call a dendritic spine.  The process of forming a dendritic spine requires a particular substance, a derivative of one of the vitamins.  So, taking that substance helps to facilitate neuroplasticity.

Neuromodulation

Secondly, we use a form of electrical neuromodulation called vagal nerve stimulation.  Provided we position the electrodes correctly, this sends a signal into the brain to a structure called the locus coeruleus.  Critically, the locus coeruleus plays a major role in neuroplasticity.  On the basis of a number of scientific studies, we know that stimulation of the locus coeruleus promotes neuroplasticity. 

Priming the Brain with Neuroplasticity

So, taking the relevant substance and using vagal nerve stimulation to stimulate the locus coeruleus significantly enhances neuroplasticity in the brain.  It primes the brain to form new connections.  Then, once the brain is primed, you need to use your brain to work on whatever brain function needs to recover.

Healing the Brain

Obviously, that treatment will differ from person to the next.  Sometimes, you might work with a therapist, such as a speech therapist or occupational therapist, to try and restore a particular brain function.  It might be appropriate to work with a neuropsychologist. Alternatively, you may work at home, doing your own rehabilitation, shaping your brain to form new connections.  Once you have primed your brain with the necessary substance to form dendritic spines, and with neuromodulation using vagal nerve stimulation, then it will be easier for your brain to form those new connections.  And that is how you boost neuroplasticity!

If you keep working at it, then you will reinforce the connections and the brain function in question will gradually improve.  Like with anything else in life, you need to make the effort and put in the time in order to get the reward.  Improved brain function is a great reward!

If you would like to know more, please get in touch.

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