HOW DO YOU “EXERCISE” THE BRAIN?
Before we can talk about what allows us to exercise the brain, we have to clear up a few fundamental facts about your brain. Have you ever asked what the brain is for? It’s capable of a great many things, but the brain is designed for one purpose: to interpret, process, and respond to your environmentso you can interact with it effectively. From the simplest animals to the smartest rocket scientists, the brain helps us respond to stimuli in (ideally) the best way possible.
All brain injuries interrupt the sequence of perception, interpretation, and response—that’s why they’re so difficult to contend with. People will simply perceive, process, or respond in a way that isn’t effective. Whether you’re dealing with vertigo (poor interpretation of balance signals), concussions, or Alzheimer’s, the fundamental issue is that your brain isn’t processing your environment effectively. This dynamic explains why two people can respond in such wildly different ways to the same situation.
Imagine two rock climbers: one is a veteran climber, and the other one is climbing for the first time and has a fear of heights. The veteran boldly reaches for high handholds, leaping and grabbing without hesitation. The newbie is barely reaching out six inches at a time, constantly aware of how far below the ground is. Assuming they are at equal levels of fitness, they are in the same exact situation. So why is one responding with boldness and the other with timidity? Because one of them has trained their mind to respond to the stimuli of heights differently.
This is the key to the therapies at Plasticity Brain Centers. Neurological performance is on a spectrum, from Olympic athletes to children with developmental disorders, or from laser-focused scholars to people struggling with ADHD. People’s position on the spectrum is fluid—it’s why athletes have good days and bad days, why comatose patients have days where their brains are more alert and other days where they’re totally isolated. The principle that people can learn and train their brain to respond to the environment to be sharper, more precise, and faster is the foundation of our work.
The process of learning is the physical formation of electrical connections between your neurons, and your brain is capable of forming these connections for as long as we live. These connections are formed through stimuli, so individuals create these connections all the time on accident. However, they often go unnoticed because the connection isn’t established strongly enough. At Plasticity Brain Centers, we create these connections purposefully and clinically through receptor-based therapies.
Despite all your brain is capable of, it perceives stimuli through 6 different channels, more commonly known as our senses. These include the classic 5 senses: taste, smell, sight, hearing, and touch/movement. However, there is a “sixth” sense that encompasses the oldest and most powerful receptors in your brain: our sense of time, our sense of space, and our sense of balance. These are known as the vestibular senses.
Every lobe of your brain is tied to each one of these senses. Smell, taste, and hearing are located in your temporal lobe, your sense of touch is in the parietal lobe, and your vision is in your occipital lobe. Your vestibular senses are spread throughout the cerebellar, parietal, and temporal lobes.
Our therapies act as the “environment” that your brain processes and responds to. We create exercises and activities that cause your different senses to respond (either synergistically or individually), thus building new responses. By stimulating your different senses in different and calculated ways, doctors can create new connections between your neurons in the areas where you require treatment or improvement.
The first principles of neuroplasticity were pioneered in part by a Canadian psychologist named Donald O. Hebb. In his study of neurological response, he once said “When two neurons fire together, they wire together.” Essentially, when you create an electrical connection between neurons, you’re making a pathway between perception (the stimulus) and the response. As a result, the next time you experience that stimulus, it will also set off that electrical signal so you respond automatically. The more you experience the stimulus, the faster that response becomes.
This does not just apply to intellectual learning or language either. Your ability to walk might feel natural and automatic today, but when you were a child, it took all of your brain and muscle power to walk. After years of daily practice, you eventually created such deep and effective connections that you can walk without a second thought. If your ability to walk or function or respond in other ways has been damaged by brain injury, the right therapies and daily application can create new neurological and physical responses, giving people the ability to relearn or establish effective skills and functions.
In short, receptor-based therapies are a way of therapeutically addressing your brain’s weak or ineffective processes by stimulating your senses deliberately and repeatedly. These therapies are the key to developing new neurological connections. By stimulating your different senses in precise ways, we can create responses that aremore effective, bypassing the damaged or weak connections that your brain may have currently. Since each sense is tied to a different area of the brain, we can precisely and clinically target the areas of your brain where your processing, interpretation, or responses are lacking the precision or efficiency you’re looking for.