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Neuroplasticity - A Brain Can Change

Posted by on Jul. 24, 2013 at 9:25 PM
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Neuroplasticity and Autism Treatments ~ Dr.Kurt Woeller

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to adapt to changes in environmental influences and stresses. In autism, the brain can change and improve through autism treatments.


Neuroplasticity relates to the way our brain receives, transmits and processes information. Ideally, the brain should process information appropriately for optimal brain health and function including, memory input, emotional control, and self-regulation. However, in various neurological disorders like autism these control mechanisms do not function properly.

The process of neuroplasticity also involves gene expression (for cellular function and cell response), neurogenesis (for nerve growth and development), structural changes (for proper brain volume which is critical for proper function), and synaptogenesis (for optimal nerve cell connection and communication). Again, when there is malfunction in the communication network of the brain we have problems, i.e. autism, depression, mood disorders and other neurological disorders.

Neuroplasticity depends on various chemical mediators for brain function to work properly. Growth factors and hormones play an important role in the brain and nervous system. In autism, certain areas of the brain are often impaired leading to problems in emotional control, memory, learning capacity, and perceptions. The hippocampus (involved in short to long-term memory processing and spatial navigation which helps with memory of surrounding environment), and amygdala (involved in emotional memory, mood, etc.) are part of the limbic system. When this area of the limbic brain is impaired emotional instability, poor self-regulation, self-stimulatory behaviors and rigidity in thought and behavior can become manifest – all characteristics of autism.

Another area of dysfunction is the prefrontal cortex which is involved in decision making and short-term memory. The inability of these brain regions to synchronize appropriately adds to the behavior and cognitive problems prevalent in autism. However, through neuroplasticity the brain can adapt and change and improvements can be seen in many individuals on the autism-spectrum undergoing consistent autism treatments such as biomedical intervention including diet, supplements, methylation (Methyl-B12), respen-A, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and others. The principles of neuroplasticity are also utilized by therapist working on the core behavioral and social issues of those with autism as well.

Newer therapeutic approaches have stressed the need to look beyond just the manipulation of brain chemistry such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Although, medicinal therapy can be useful as autism treatment at times to shift neurotransmitter levels, working on changing brain function and structure is more ideal through the natural process of neuroplasticity. Research has shown that repetitive training can be extremely beneficial in autism. Therapies such as behavioral modification, occupational therapy, and speech therapy are classically employed as programs for autistic individuals. Additional therapies such as floortime, hippotherapy (equine based), social groups, auditory, vision, and music therapy, etc. are also useful in attempts to induce new and appropriate changes in the brain. The key element for all of these autism treatments is repetition and consistency overtime to help increase new neural connections and pathways for improved and synchronized brain function


The 7 Tenets Of Neuroplasticity


When applied, these seven tenets can help you harness the power of brain plasticity.

• Change can occur only when the brain is in the mood. This means that while you learn, you need to be fully engaged, interested, and focused. According to Merzinich, “training must be incremental, and just a little bit taxing. The brain will build itself best on a sense of consistent accomplishment.”

• Change strengthens the connections between neurons engaged at the same time. Newness and novelty excite the brain and create a stronger connection between neurons.

• Neurons that fire together, wire together. This is also known as the Hebbian Rule, coined by Dr. Donald Hebb. You’ve heard the phrases “Use it or lose it,” “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” “practice makes perfect,” and “repetition is the mother of all learning.” These are no longer just expressions; they are neurological facts. Every time you have a new experience, a new synaptic connection forms. The more you use that connection, the stronger it gets. If you stop using the connection, the neurons are pruned away.

• Strong emotions strengthen the connections. Emotions help imprint patterns and fortify neural networks. This can work for us or against us depending on the emotion, memory, and experience. Emotionally charged experiences can be indelibly etched within our consciousness, creating a wider neuronal network. Presbyterian minister Carl W. Buechner, famous for his quips, said, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

• Brain plasticity is a two-way street. The brain can change in both positive and negative directions. We can unwittingly program ourselves for failure through our attitudes, our expectations, and even the language we use regularly. In 1975, Becca Levy, PhD, surveyed 650 people about their expectations regarding the aging process. Subjects responded to statements such as “Things keep getting worse as I get older” and “I am as happy now as I was when I was younger.” Based on their responses, Dr. Levy categorized test subjects as either negative or positive in their attitude toward aging. Twenty years later, she discovered that the group with optimistic expectations about aging had outlived the negative, pessimistic group by an average of more than seven years.

• Memory is crucial for learning. This is obvious, but it’s important to keep in mind that when we are learning, the brain is creating new synaptic connections (new memories) and calling upon old synaptic connections (old memories) as we make associations. Unused connections die off, while connections that get used repeatedly become more efficient.

• Motivation is a key factor. The desired goal must be interesting. If you have a goal of living in France for six months, studying French becomes a fun affair to savor. Your ability to learn is far more robust than if you were only taking French lessons as a credit requirement.


Conclusion: It’s never too late to change your brain and improve your mind.

The Brain Fitness Program (PBS) Documentary

Changing Your Mind ~ David Suzuki Reports on Neuroplasticity

The Brain That Changes Itself ~ Norman Doidge, M.D.



by on Jul. 24, 2013 at 9:25 PM
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KatyTylersMom
by Bronze Member on Jul. 25, 2013 at 2:45 AM

I have to believe if people who have massive strokes, gunshot wounds to the brain, and other traumas can regain function, relearn to talk, and lead relatively normal lives then our kids can as well IF we can find out what is harming their brains and REMOVE IT.  If it's bacteria in the gut releasing toxins then they gotta go.  if it's food allergies triggering whole-body inflammation then those have to go.  If it's lack of ingredients to run the detoxification cycle in the body then we have to put those back in. 

The list goes on and on as to what can help each individual child and yet we have western medicine sitting on it's fat, pharmaceutical-subsidized ass instead of chasing down each piece of this autism puzzle.  And yet the doctors who DO decide to look deeper are considered quacks, dangers to our children, sensationalists, and against the greater good of public health practices.  And what's worse, so many parents buy it!  And they stop looking.  They do the therapies, they work hard to get IEP's in place and they do "everything they can" for their kids EXCEPT look outside the box for themselves.  They are content to think it's just genetics which can't be helped and can't be changed.  And quite honestly it drives me a tiny bit crazy! 

As for neuroplasticity and the brain the fires together wires together, that's the entire premise of the Brain Balance therapy where they basically hit all 5 senses with specific inputs (colored lenses, vibrating pad on one wrist, essential oils on one shoulder, headphones playing music in one ear... hmm not sure if they do taste) WHILE having the kids do all kinds of other activities to force the whole brain to finally work together at the same time.  I go up tomorrow afternoon to get the training video for the at-home portion.  Depending on how much I want to strangle my daughter while having her learn the at-home exercises I may try to post a video of her doing them:)  She's a sweet, smart, funny kid but goddamn did she get the full dose of mommy's stubborn hardheaded my-way-or-the-highway attitude!  Maybe I'll make my husband teach her the first few times... he married it so he must like it:)

VioletsMomTown
by Robyn *Group Owner* on Jul. 25, 2013 at 9:39 AM

I just watched this video on you tube last night about a little girl with severe seizures in one half of her brain. They decided the best thing to do was to actually remove half of her brain! You know what though, 4 weeks later, she was walking fine, talking fine (even better) and she is a totally normal girl now! The brain is amazing. I always believed in neuroplasticity, but they touched on it when I went to learn the Son-Rise Program, and a lot of their techniques are loosly based on it. I'm interested in Brain Balance because of that, I am curious to see how it goes for sure!


Quoting KatyTylersMom:

I have to believe if people who have massive strokes, gunshot wounds to the brain, and other traumas can regain function, relearn to talk, and lead relatively normal lives then our kids can as well IF we can find out what is harming their brains and REMOVE IT.  If it's bacteria in the gut releasing toxins then they gotta go.  if it's food allergies triggering whole-body inflammation then those have to go.  If it's lack of ingredients to run the detoxification cycle in the body then we have to put those back in. 

The list goes on and on as to what can help each individual child and yet we have western medicine sitting on it's fat, pharmaceutical-subsidized ass instead of chasing down each piece of this autism puzzle.  And yet the doctors who DO decide to look deeper are considered quacks, dangers to our children, sensationalists, and against the greater good of public health practices.  And what's worse, so many parents buy it!  And they stop looking.  They do the therapies, they work hard to get IEP's in place and they do "everything they can" for their kids EXCEPT look outside the box for themselves.  They are content to think it's just genetics which can't be helped and can't be changed.  And quite honestly it drives me a tiny bit crazy! 

As for neuroplasticity and the brain the fires together wires together, that's the entire premise of the Brain Balance therapy where they basically hit all 5 senses with specific inputs (colored lenses, vibrating pad on one wrist, essential oils on one shoulder, headphones playing music in one ear... hmm not sure if they do taste) WHILE having the kids do all kinds of other activities to force the whole brain to finally work together at the same time.  I go up tomorrow afternoon to get the training video for the at-home portion.  Depending on how much I want to strangle my daughter while having her learn the at-home exercises I may try to post a video of her doing them:)  She's a sweet, smart, funny kid but goddamn did she get the full dose of mommy's stubborn hardheaded my-way-or-the-highway attitude!  Maybe I'll make my husband teach her the first few times... he married it so he must like it:)



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