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The Plastic Brain

October 7, 2011

        In class one day, our professor declared, “Speech Pathologists rewire brains.”

        This really struck home for me, as I had never thought about the profession in this way before. The idea of it really excited me, so I mentioned this to a few of my friends.

“I can’t believe you’re like actually going to rewire brains.” Insert chuckle and smug little smile here. “You should rewire them to obey your every command.”

But that’s when I came to realize they were picturing me literally prying into a brain and reattaching all those tiny little neuronal connections, Frankenstein style. And although this idea does portray a rather amusing image, that’s not exactly how it works…not even a little bit.

Since the brain is incredibly adaptive, it has the capacity to continually change its own structure, referred to as neuroplasticity1. Reorganization of the brain throughout life occurs by increasing or decreasing the number of neuronal connections, the blood supply, or the number and size of its cells supporting the neurons1. This allows the brain to recover from damage by compensating for a lost function1. Additionally, when we learn a new skill, “there must be persistent changes in the brain’s neural circuitry that represent this new learning.” 1 That’s where SLPs come in; they work to facilitate the rewiring of the brain through changing speech and language behaviours based on new learning and experiences.

Important principles of Neuroplasticity2

1.     Use it or lose it:

Connections in the brain that are not being actively used will begin to degrade over time

2.     Use it and improve it:

The more times the connection in activated, the better it will function in the future

3.     Repetition Matters:

Practice, practice, practice!

4.     Intensity Matters:

Intense and sufficient training is required for new connections to be acquired and maintained

To learn more visit: http://www.apraxia-kids.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=chKMI0PIIsE&b=699375&ct=1990523

References

  1. Hodge, M. (2006) What is Neuroplasticity and Why Do Parents and SLPs Need To Know? Apraxia-KIDSSM . http://www.apraxia-kids.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=chKMI0PIIsE&b=699375&ct=1990523
  1. Kleim, J.A. and Jones, T.A. (2008) Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: Implications for rehabilitation after brain damage Supplement. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 51:S225–S239.
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2011 1:59 pm

    Nice! Linking here from my ADD-focused WordPress Blog – article on Amygdala Hijacking etc.

    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, SCAC, MCC – (blogging at ADDandSoMuchMore and ADDerWorld – dot com!)

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  1. Are you OUT of your MIND? « ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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