Neuroplasticity: How the Brain Repairs Itself

Neurological rehabilitation can be necessary after suffering a brain injury, stroke, or infection. Events or conditions like these can leave your neurons severely damaged. Because your neurons are pathways for the brain to communicate to the rest of your body, this can impact your mobility, speech, and cognition.

Recovery At the Neuron Level

When looking at neurological therapy, the smallest level of recovery occurs at the neuron level. We have about 87 billion neurons in our brains, making up our brain or nerve cells. In the past, it was believed that when you lost a neuron, they were gone forever. But over decades of research, especially over the last 30 years, we’ve learned that the brain has the incredible ability to repair itself. In some cases, it can even create new neurons.

When you have a stroke, you can lose up to two million neurons a minute. When a neuron breaks at the axon, information or a signal comes in, but can’t be sent out. Communication from the brain to the rest of your body is lost.

However, the brain can adapt by doing the following:

  • Connecting to another neuron
  • Forming a new connection to itself
  • Allowing other neurons to take on more jobs

Required Rehabilitation Through Repetition

Neuroplasticity requires intensity, repetition, and specific practice for the brain to relearn. The brain naturally wants to take the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, after something like a stroke or brain injury, a lot of people tend to give in to that feeling.

Our team of caregivers and therapists are there to encourage you. We work to get our patients to that recovery zone that we call the “uncomfortable zone”. When you’re working in that area, we as caregivers know that your brain is reestablishing those lost connections.

Jenelle Langlois, physical therapist at San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital, explained, “When you’re learning something new like an instrument or a language, it can take around 10,000 repetitions to learn a new skill.” The same idea goes for neurological rehabilitation. When you’re relearning something that you’ve already known in the past, it can take even more repetition. This is because you’re trying to refine the reconnection and restore it.

The key to neurological recovery is patience. The first step is to acknowledge what is going on and then put the work into your recovery. With perseverance, recovery is possible, and that is how we can get you back to better.