When I was a child, I would sometimes imagine being small enough to get into a bubble that would take me on a journey around the inside of the body.
I had it all worked out…Blood was the river that my bubble was floating on; that took me through the body and bones were mountains, caves and crevices on the adventure.
Looking back on my imagination and my floating bubble, I realize that at that time in my life, I just had such a curiosity and wanted to discover the places in my body that were not well, so that they could be repaired.
You see, I spent periods of my childhood in hospital, undergoing surgery for a spine problem I had. It was either that or I was attending appointments with the specialists or having physio. Throughout this time, I felt that whatever I was suffering from could be fixed because when you're a child, everything is an adventure story; mostly with a happy ever after.
Of course now as an adult, I am a little more realistic about what can be achieved when dealing with life’s health challenges BUT I still believe that there is so much that we don’t know. Maybe also being a survivor of meningitis and in a critical condition -my parents being told that I wouldn’t live, is a constant reminder that one rule or even one hundred may not fit to you. I never underestimate how unique we all are.
So, it’s safe to say that I’ve always been really fascinated with the complexities and magnificence of the human body and how it works.
If I hadn’t pursued my childhood passion that steered me towards the ‘Arts’, I feel sure that I would have taken a human biology path in the field of research for treatments to solve health problems. Having said this, despite choosing the creative ‘Art’s field, I guess that my earliest life journey and experience with health issues has, in the background helped me develop as and become an avid researcher.
There are many subjects that interest me but none more so than that about the brain.
Over 20 years ago, I learned that scientists were now referring to the brain as being plastic.
This was a huge deal because before then, people did not believe that the brain could change or repair or be fixed if there was something wrong with it. Scientists had believed that we were born with a certain number of non-replenishing cells that once used, or if damaged could not be repaired and would not be replaced. We now know that this is not true.
Correctly referred to as neuroplasticity, a study in 1998 found that the human brain has the ability to develop new brain cells and many studies followed, proving that the brain can change/ be transformed to demonstrate plasticity.
Plastic?! I knew they didn’t mean it literally but at the time of hearing this news, I was briefly transported back to my child self again where I imagined everyone having a plastic brain. I pictured the brain being made of multi-coloured building blocks that slotted together and I imagined that each block represented something that made us function.
After accidents or as a result of various autoimmune diseases, many people are often still told that the damage sustained or created is permanent. Yes, this is clearly the case for many people but there are also many numbers of people that either experience partial improvements or complete repair over time.
In many cases where improvements were later observed, you often hear people say that based on the severity of their damage, medical specialist had not offered an encouraging prognosis but were later baffled to note improvements when they had not believed advansements were possible.
So what happens that allows someone to experience partial or complete recovery of their disability over time?
Well, new connections can form, creating new pathways that ultimately change the structure of the brain. New neurons, also called nerve cells are constantly being born as old ones die but a balance of cells is maintained while the brain undergoes repair.
The brain wants to survive and wants to keep learning how to live
As difficult and frustrating as it can be when trying to rehabilitate form brain injury, we know that the challenging exercises are the ones that force the brain to create new pathways, so understanding this and following a programe for your needs can provide life changing results.
While I respect and appreciate the opinions of many medical professionals, they have not been equipped with the power of the unforeseen marvels that are always changing brains potential.
For this reason, I remain completely in awe of the brain and what it is capable of achieving.
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