The Science of Brain Recovery after a Stroke


Stroke is a common medical condition caused by poor or disrupted blood flow to the brain. This results in cell death and disability. When blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to the brain are blocked by clots or ruptures, parts of the brain cannot receive blood and oxygen, causing affected brain cells to die. 

What are the types of stroke?

There are several types of stroke: Ischemic Stroke, Hemorrhagic Stroke, Transient Ischemic Attack(TIA),  and Brain Stem Stroke.

1. Ischemic Stroke is caused by clots obstructing the blood flow to the brain

2. Hemorrhagic Stroke is caused by the rupture of a blood vessel, preventing the flow of blood to the brain.

3. Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is caused by a temporary clot, resulting in a transient neurological deficit. It is like a warning sign of real stroke, which can be more dangerous. Knowing and evaluating before real stroke occurs is potential.

The symptoms of stroke depend on the location of brain damage. For example, if the brain lobe controls speech, the patient with stroke comes with speech difficulty (aphasia), and if the brain stem which controls gait, and eye movement nerve, the patient might come with walking difficulty, and double vision.

Can the brain heal after a stroke?

After a stroke, only the area of the brain that suffers a complete loss of blood supply for a certain period of time dies; this is called the infarct area. The cells surrounding the infarct area that still survive can help generate new connections and brain cells. This is why rehabilitation to boost the survival of cells is critical. The brain’s ability for neuroplasticity can be enhanced in many ways.

What is neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s capacity to allow the generation of new connections and brain cells, and enable re-learning. It gives us the capability to learn and memorize new things, and adjust to new environments that we are in.

In recent years, research suggests that the capacity of our brains to change depends on our lifestyle, activity, and environment. For example, after an injury or accident, neuroplasticity allows the brain to compensate for that situation.

The study of neuroplasticity in neuroscience has received a lot of attention in recent years. Studies have shown that we can develop neuroplasticity based on the eight-core principles of neurology

1. If you are alert and motivated, your brain will release the neurochemicals necessary to enable brain change. But if you are inattentive, your neuroplasticity will be reduced or even disabled.

2. Being intensely focused on a task or doing something for an important reason results in the change experienced being greater.

3. The more you practice a skill, the more connections are changed, allowing you to perform with greater facility and reliability over time.

4. The more powerfully coordinated teams of nerve cells are, the more powerful and more reliable their behavioral production will be.

5. By strengthening nerve connections, your brain can predict what happens next and seemingly instinctively react better, improving control and coordination.

6. Temporary changes begin at the initial phase. After that, your brain will determine whether a change should be permanent or not.

7. Internal mental rehearsal can change the brain without involving actual physical movement.

8. You can choose the plasticity changes of the brain through the principle of  “use it or lose it.” It’s almost as easy to drive changes that impair memory and physical and mental abilities as it is to improve these things.

What does this mean for treatment?

From these new insights into the neuroplasticity of the brain, doctors and therapists can develop new treatment programs. There now are exciting treatments to guide and stimulate the brain with occupational and physical therapy activities and treatment. For recent stroke cases, regenerative medicine for brain cell regeneration may also help. The neuroprotective agent, the medicine that enriches nutrients essential for brain cell environmental growth could help especially in the recent stroke no more than 3 months. In some cases, patients may be stimulated by tDCS or Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation which is a non-invasive, painless brain stimulation treatment that uses direct electrical currents to stimulate specific parts of the brain. Combining different treatments and activities in a comprehensive program is the best way to achieve neuroplasticity.

References: https://www.soft-wired.com/