Therapy can Help the Brain Rewire Itself

Essay by strongdude59High School, 12th gradeB, March 2009

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If there is anything that could be called the “last frontier” in medical research, it is the brain’s ability to rewire itself after a severe injury. You cannot possibly have a normal life if your brain is not functioning properly. You can overcome the loss of a limb as long as that loss is not the consequence of a traumatic brain injury.

Only recently has research begun to change the theory that brain cells die after a severe injury and that brain cells are more “plastic” than thought. The theory of plasticity refers to the capability for the brain to change its circuits to continue to perform tasks that severe injury had made it incapable of doing.

The brain does not repair itself effectively as, for instance, muscles or bones. A process called “cortical reorganization” is a way to stimulate or manipulate other brain areas so they can take over lost brain functions. This new rehabilitation technique used after a person has a stroke uses other areas of the brain to be used in the retraining of movement that was lost. To maximize effectiveness of this therapy, it requires repetitive use of the part of the body affected for many weeks and many hours a day.

This article also shows how important clinical trials are for both the human volunteers and the doctors and their research team. How can doctors know whether a treatment is effective on humans if it can’t be tried on us? In addition, participants have access to new treatments before the rest of us, and they help us by contributing to medical research.

First, the safety of the procedure is established on animals. Then, human beings with the health problem researchers are trying to understand and improve are recruited for the study. Observations and...