Mechanics of Learning – lessons from neurorehabilitation
“Use it or lose it” – is a particularly apt description of brain function. Continuously (until death) new connections are formed between the 100 billion nerve cells which we have been born, and the 100 to 10 000 connections per neuron with others forming extensive networks makes the brain an enormously complex organ.
Probably some neuro-neogenesis (perhaps 6000 cells a day) occurs even in adulthood. Only those synapses, however, which are actively used, remain functional.
This is the basis of learning – the interaction and exchange between organism (us) and environment in problem solving tasks of daily living. Investigations on neuroplasticity in recent years have become a central topic in neuroscience, and have changed the attitude towards patients with lesions of the central nervous system.
They have also led to a better understanding of the adaptations of structures and functions of the brain according to requirements from the environment (environment being understood as the physical, psychological and social surroundings with their potentials and constraints).
In neurorehabilitation, such understanding of the interactions between organism and environment and that of learning is used and adapted in the treatment of patients with acute or chronic diseases or trauma. In reverse the observation of the changes attained during rehabilitation of such patients provides new insights into the mechanism of learning and of adaptations of brain structures and functions.
By Prof. Jurg Kesselring, Department of Neurology & Neurorehabilitation, Switzerland.
This article was first published in the Brain Association of Queensland Synapse magazine. www.synapse.org.au
Researchers used to believe the brain pathways (for sending messages between the brain and the body) were fixed or unchangeable. This meant if a function was performed by a certain area of the brain, it could only be performed by that area. Therefore, after stroke they believed any damage that wasn’t repaired within a few months would be permanent.
Research now indicates the brain has the ability to change. This means brain pathways can change. This ability is called neuroplasticity. As a result, some stroke survivors may be able to retrain the brain by learning to use different parts of their brains to regain function during rehabilitation.
For a video about Neuroplasticity from Dr Norman Doige
There are a number of great puzzle games that can help you to exercise your brain IQ Puzzler are some great ones