Enhancing your Brain’s Neuroplasticity

 

Enhancing your Brain’s Neuroplasticity

When a person is born, their brains are constantly building new cells called neurons. A toddler typically has twice as many neurons  as an adult because babies and toddlers are assimilating a huge amount of information from their environment and acquiring essential skills to survive and grow. The environment provides plenty of stimuli for the child’s developing brain, thereby facilitating and reinforcing neural connections, and deeply entrenching them.

As all chiropractors know all neural pathways are easier to establish in a younger person, resulting in the acquisition of knowledge and concepts such as languages being relatively effortless in a child. As an individual grows older, he or she will have less brain plasticity. While older brains can still learn and grow, they will do so at a gentler pace than a younger brain.

During adolescence, neural connections that are no longer being used are eliminated via a process called synaptic pruning. As unused synapses disappear, the brain then focuses on making new synapses for the functions that the person’s body employs on a regular basis.

How does one’s brain adapt to changes?

With oxygen and the right stimulation to stay sharp, the human brain is capable of change throughout life.

Neuroplasticity can be defined as the brain’s ability to alter the structure of its neural network, in forming new neurons, making new neural connections, and rearranging or eliminating preexisting connections. Put simply, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change – to rewire, relearn and strengthen important connections.

When neural pathways are stimulated, they become more efficient and stronger at thinking, feeling, reacting a certain way – making those reactions automatic over time, while less stimulated responses gradually diminish until they cease to exist (for example, an unhealthy way of thinking that you choose to abandon).

When the brain in injured or grows abnormally, neurons are damaged, altered or lost, causing inability to do everything that a optimally-functioning brain can. Strategies a brain can use to work around brain injuries and impaired brain function are reassigning or shifting a particular function to a similar part of the brain, developing another way to do the task, or translating data / input through a different sense.

Aerobic exercise, cognitively challenging activities and chiropractic care can help increase a brain’s neuroplasticity.

When is neuroplasticity beneficial?

  1. As part of mental health treatment – e.g., anxiety, depression, early stages of dementia, etc.
  2. When a child is learning new skills such as language, music, sport, mathematics, how to cross a road safely, etc.
  3. When an adult is acquiring new skills, habits, beliefs.
  4. When helping people overcome fears, pain or ailments they once believed to be impossible to be cured from.

How do chiropractic adjustments affect your brain’s plasticity?

One word we all know is pain. The adaptive response to pain (physical, mental or emotional) by the brain is fascinating.

Pain is processed in our brain as a result of our experiences. Simple survival adaptability and plasticity at its finest is knowing how not to touch a hot stove. At some point you would have experienced personally or via someone else that touching a hot stove results in pain and injury. Pain is the brain’s calculation that tissue damage is occurring. With the memory of pain recorded in the central nervous system as a protective mechanism, we do not reach out and touch a hot stove. These pain pathways and the changes in perception of the signals are what plasticity is all about.

Pain also has a memory and we may avoid using a fully functional joint because of the perception of danger (such as pain), whether real or exaggerated. Our brain will only allow muscles to fire to move a joint that it trusts.

Practically every anatomical structure of the lumbar motion segment is capable of producing pain. We are constantly in a fight or flight mode of protection, pain avoidance and survival. Our body is efficient at reacting to stress the same way each and every time. Stress is a survival response, not a healing response. Stress delays healing.

The chiropractic adjustment (or spinal manipulative therapy) has been demonstrated to have excellent clinical results for the treatment of chronic and acute back pain. By inducing motion into the hypomobile areas, mechanoreception is stimulated. The afferent impulses resulting from chiropractic adjustments affect the central nervous system, and alter the ascending and descending pain-modulating characteristics of the nervous system, facilitating healing.

References:

  1. Adult neurogenesis. (2018, March 14). Queensland Brain Institute. Retrieved from https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain-basics/brain-physiology/adult-neurogenesis
  2. Harwood, R., Miller, S. A., & Vasta, R. (2008). Child psychology: Development in a changing society. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Print.
  3. Kleim, J. A., & Jones, T. A. (2008). Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: Implications for rehabilitation after brain damage. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 51(1). Retrieved from https://www.jsmf.org/meetings/2008/may/Kleim%20&%20Jones%202008.pdf
  4. Rugnetta, M. (2019, March 28). Neuroplasticity. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/science/neuroplasticity#ref276923
  5. Gatterman, M (2005). Foundations of Chiropractic: Subluxation (Mosby 2 Edition)
  6. Dauch, JR, Hsinlin TC Spinal Cord Neural Plasticity in Chronic Pain and its Clinical Implication
  7. Pickar, Noel G, Neurophysiological effects of Spinal Manipulation”. The Spine Journal 2.5 (2002). 357-371

 

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Call (02) 9972 0040 today and our trained chiropractors at Clinic 27 will guide you through your healing journey. 

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