Monday, September 14, 2015

How Your Brain Rewires Itself After Injury

The following article was written by Clay Nichols, Co-founder of MoreSpeech and Bungalow Software which both provide Speech & Language Software. It was originally published in their free newsletter in August 2015. Clay has given me permission to re-post his article on our blog. 

Clay has spent the last 20 years helping patients, caregivers and speech pathologists with speech & language software. He's picked up a lot of tips and tricks along the way and he shares them in his free newsletter.

I encourage you to visit his site by clicking on this link: Speech & Language Therapy Software for stroke and brain-injury survivors 

You can also click on the other two highlighted links above.

If you are interested in getting a free trial of any of the above software contact Clay using any of the above links. 


by Clay Nichols

How Your Brain Rewires Itself After Injury
And why it means recovery is possible

At one point scientists believed the brain stopped growing new neural pathways as we grew older. While certainly the first years of childhood are developmentally dynamic, the latest research shows you can grow new pathways at any point in your life. If your brain has been injured by stroke or trauma, utilizing your brain's capacity for neuroplasticity through some basic, mindful exercises can compensate for injury and respond to new situations.

Welcome To Brainville 
Here’s an analogy that have used with caregivers and survivors over the last 20 years that many have found helpful: Your brain is like a city, with roads connecting all the little areas. We'll call it Brainville.

Those roads are analogous to the neural pathways in your brain. Your brain sends neural signals along these pathways. A very oversimplified example would be: if you are trying to say the word for a picture of an apple, your brain sends neural signals from the visual cortex (which sees the apple) to the speech cortex (which would move your mouth to make the speech for apple). The actual neurology is more complex than this, but you get the idea.

That’s analogous to cars driving in our little imaginary city, Brainville (population: 1 survivor). The cars are like neural signals traveling along neural roads from one part of of the city to another.

When you have a brain injury, it’s like part of the road system in Brainville has been damaged and the road (neural pathway) is closed.

Now you can’t get from home to the library because the route you normally take is damaged. Or your brain can't access the word for library. Or car. Or road, eat, or I love you.

But, just as you’d do on a real road, you can take a detour to get around the damaged streets in Brainville. The trick is that you have to learn the detour path. That’s what rehab is: accepting the challenge to learn a new path.

How Rehab Resources Will Help

  • In future newsletter articles I'll explain (in plain-english) the relatively new view of the brain and how rehab can work with it to produce positive therapeutic results.
  • I'll outline some exercises, and discuss the importance of mindful practice. I'll also bust the myth that all of the recovery happens in the first 3 to 6 months.
  • I'll also provide links to the research that both substantiates what I cover here and enables you to do your own homework. My goal is to give you the tools and information you need to make the right decision for yourself or your patient's therapy.

Resources Coming To You

Here are the future issues I have planned to help with Speech & Language recovery:

  1. Next Issue (in a week) : Busting Recovery Myths about Stroke and TBI.
  2. Video where an famous brain scientist describes what she thought about as she was having a stroke. You may not have seen this video, but over 3.3 Million other people have. 21,782 people gave this video a thumbs up!
  3. Where to find inexpensive Speech Therapy (often on a sliding scale where you pay what you can) from the most motivated Speech Therapists.
  4. Simple Self-Therapy tips for word-retrieval with a printable Infographic you can carry with you.
  5. Free therapy worksheets for:
    • Expressive Aphasia (word retrieval) : picture naming, etc.
    • Receptive Aphasia - Auditory Comprehension
    • Reading Comprehension
    • Oral-Motor exercises for Apraxia and more...
  6. A clever use of common office supply product for Expressive and Receptive Aphasia Recovery. You probably have lots of these at home (I know I do)
  7. Free Aphasia Card that explains the deficit the patient has and what the other person can do to help.
  8. Family board games that provide the best language practice.
  9. Understanding the different types of speech & language deficits

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