Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hope for the Brain

Brain problems have been mixing around in my life since forever.  
I had a fiance who had an aneurysm while we were alone together in his car on a Sunday afternoon.  He never recovered.  
My father had a stroke when he was my age, never recovering his speech or his ability to use his arms, legs, or any kind of useful movement in his body aside from the ability to turn his head in a direction he chose.  This lasted almost a year until he died eleven months later.
My mother suffered from serious dementia and had so for too long a time. 
My brother’s sons suffered from serious, debilitating OCD.  
I have a great-nephew who potentially has Asberger’s Syndrome.  
ADD and ADHD seems to have its way with about everyone in my family.  
As a result, The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D., really intrigued me, but it’s cutting edge ideas and hope really won my heart. It deals with all these difficulties and more.  
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to adapt, and is the topic of the book.  

It was earlier thought that areas of the brain were set from infancy and damage to various areas caused permanent damage to different skills and functions.  But this book shows that other parts of the brain can take over where failure in a specific area takes place.  Dozens of examples are given.
The first story is of a man, a professor in higher education in the 1960’s who suffered a stroke.  His son worked with the man well beyond the time, two-plus years, when recovery is expected by health-care professionals to be worthless.  His son had him crawl like a baby, pick up marbles, worked with his speech, until finally the man was able to return to teaching.  After the man died a few years later in his seventies, an autopsy was performed and it revealed he had indeed suffered a massive, debilitating stroke.  But his brain had rerouted its innerworkings to where it could re-command his functions
I wish we’d known this.  The professionals had given up on my father well after the time of this man.  His stroke was in 1988.  
The book spoke of a man who had had a stroke while in-utero during the second trimester.  Yet at an age about in his mid-forties was able to recover substantially through working with the principles of changing his brain in a clinic designed with this hope in mind though he had never been able to function well in his life to this point.
OCD, it would seem, can be worked with by some of these ideas as can autism.  
The same principles, however, can work in a negative way.  Addiction to pornography can recircuit the brain in the same way to a terrible result.  Hope for recovery from this, however, is in the same vein.
This book is really is quite readable as well. It won the 2008 U.S. National Alliance on Mental Illness Ken Book Award, it was a New York Times bestseller and a Scientific American Main Selection.  
If the brain interests you and hope for brain health appeals to you, it’s worth a read.  

1 comment:

Lindsey said...

I had to study the brain in several classes, mostly as it pertained to speech and language, and I always thought it was fascinating. Brain problems always seem so daunting and complicated, but it is refreshing to gain hope from the progress that has been made. Hope is always a blessing