The Concept of Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity is defined by the Oxford dictionary as the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.
The idea is that our brain and the neurons (cells) in our brain can be molded based on the information it is given. Example; if you spend 8 hours at a computer for work and slouch for the majority of those 8 hours your brain is continuing to get feedback that this is the posture you want. Everyday at work, when you take that posture it is reinforced in your brain as “normal” or “status quo”. The result is that when you stand, play sports, or are sitting on the couch, your brain does not know to correct your posture because of the load of information you have laid down during your work hours. The concept can work for or against us; take a sport like basketball for example. If the athlete has perfect shooting mechanics along with a proper stance and repeats those principles over and over again, that athlete will have great success shooting the ball as their proper technique is consistent. If the athlete has the elbow out of alignment, not enough follow through, and a poor stance repeatedly. Then the athlete may make a shot here or there, but will never have regular success as he or she is “programmed” with poor technique.
How It Works
Our brain and nervous system work like a circuit board. There are many different parts ( 4 lobes, the brain stem, cerebellum, pituitary stalk, basal ganglia, etc) that communicate with each other in order to interpret information as well as carry out tasks. We have these specific Cerebro-pathways ( a series of neurons that “light up” a path through our brain in order to complete a task) that run almost like a railroad track through our brain. When information comes into the brain a Cerebro-pathway gets turned on to interpret whatever information is coming in and another will turn on in order to create a reaction to that information. The idea is that the more that railroad track is used, the more it is reinforced. Just like the athlete shooting the basketball. See video for this process at the chemical level.
Approach and Application for Rehab
The approach is no different than weight lifting. If I want to get my chest stronger I'm going to exercise my chest with pushups and bench press. I can’t do 5 pushups and expect my chest to be stronger, I have to give it a large demand. That could be a high volume of repetitions or heavy weights.
Neurotherapy uses the vestibular system (sensory system that provides balance and spatial awareness to the body) as a key hole into how the brain is functioning. This system involves eye movements, head movements, and the inner ear canal. Once we sort out what parts of this system are mis-firing we can put together what parts of the brain need rehabilitation. This consists of simple exercises to stimulate pathways in parts of the brain in order to promote Neuroplasticity. In some cases certain parts of need be be activated or excited while others need to inhibited or calmed. For example, If I’m in pain doing a pushup, I may want to try going away from it for the short term and try reinforcing muscles in the posterior chain in order to create balance in my upper torso.
The application of vestibular exercises are paired with nutritional consultation and physical exercise in order to get oxygen intake for the brain.