Brains, what do we know about them? Sometimes I think I am losing my mind, but that is a subject for another post. I love to read, and I came across this review on the New York Times bestseller “The Brain That Changes Itself”; It talks about how they are discovering and understanding more about our brains, how they work, how they recover from trauma, etc.
These new discoveries were made in a variety of ways. Some of the theories about brain function were proven through animal experimentation, but many new discoveries came from observing people who were suffering from neurological disorders and wanting to find a cure. One part talked about a woman named Cheryl; she suffered from an injury to her vestibular apparatus, the sensory organ for the balance system following a routine hysterectomy. While she was recovering from surgery, she developed an infection that damaged her inner ears after taking the drug, Gentamicin.
Paul Bach-y-Rita, one of the great pioneers in understanding the plasticity of the brain, heard about her situation, and came up with what he hoped would be a solution. He designed and built a special hat for Cheryl. It looks like a construction hard hat, has electrodes attached to an accelerator which leads that go to her mouth and tongue. The machine worked by stimulating nerves on her tongue to reorganize the neuropath-ways to the part of the brain that process balance. As she moved about, wearing the hat, Cheryl was able to work her way back into a normal existence. Paul had found a way, using this odd-looking contraption, to help her retrain that damaged part of her brain.age caused by this situation left her in a bad way. Her balance and depth perception were so off that she walked as though she were afraid to fall and had to hang onto things to move. The situation changed her life and not for the better. The vertigo symptoms made ordinary task impossible for her. The mental fatigue from trying to stand upright alone was exhausting. After a while Cheryl was willing to try an experimental treatment to find relief.
Paul is now working on making a device that is small enough to fit in a mouthpiece. Think of how this could help stroke patients down the road! Injuries could be avoided in high risk fall patients. The worse thing that can happen to a senior since muscle is hard to regain after being injured. We will continue to benefit from increase in research on brains and how bodies repair after trauma.
As we have watched friends, family members, even celebrities suffer and deteriorate because it was thought nerve cells could not be re-stimulated or repaired, I would say, in this day of sophisticated electronics, there MUST be something we can do!! And I was right.
We now know that neuropath ways can be rebuilt. It is not a quick fix, it takes much longer than we would like and brain cells are not as quick to mend, but with each advance in research and technology, we get closer.
I am currently working with a stroke patient who had a CVA at the age of forty-nine. She continues to make progress because she keeps working at it every day. She has been working on exercises and therapy on her own for five years, as well as hiring private practitioners like myself. The main goal I would like to help her achieve is to stay as strong as possible, that way she will be a candidate for a futuristic treatment of nanotechnology type of therapy that could allow her right leg to walk with a normal gait again. I have seen what the human spirit and determination can do, couple that with some new technology, and I bet there will be significant progress in the next ten years..
Ok call me an optimist, I don’t mind.
Massage Therapist, Brevard County