Functional Recovery and Plasticity

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  • Created on: 30-12-22 18:22
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  • Plasticity and Functional Recovery
    • Plasticity
      • The brains ability to adapt over time
      • Occurs by reorganising existing neural pathways or by establishing new neural pathways
      • At a young age the connections between our neutrons develop, however this carries on throughout our life as we have new experiences and learn new information
      • Makes it possible for the brain to potentially recover some of our cognitive functions after a brain trauma
    • Functional Recovery
      • The brains ability to regain lost cognitive abilities and mental processes which have been damaged as a result of brain injury or disease.
      • Due to the  brains plasticity it is possible to transfer affected cognitive functions from the damaged area of the brain to a different area to compensate for the lost function.
        • This can occur quickly after trauma (spontaneous recovery) or more likely is the result of intensive rehabilitation process.
      • Mechanisms
        • Neuronal Unmasking
          • Normal synapses ‘open’ their connections to enable a nearby (damaged) region to continue its function.
        • Axonal Sprouting
          • Healthy axons sprout new nerve endings to strengthen existing connections to repair damaged pathways.
        • Recruitment of Homologous Areas
          • This is where the brain uses existing structures on the opposite hemisphere to replace function on the damaged hemisphere.
    • Evaluation
      • Maguire et Al
        • Taxi drivers  - 16 right handed male who have been driving for at least 1.5 years
        • Compared to scans of 50 healthy right-handed who do not drive taxis
        • Increased grey matter was found in the brains of the taxi drivers in the hippocampus
          • Correlation between amount of time spent as taxi driver to volume of grey matter
      • Kuhn et al
        • Compared a control group with a video game group that trained for 2 months for 30 mins per day
        • Increase in grey matter in cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum in the video game group
        • Game training resulted in new synaptic transmission in brain areas involved in spatial navigation, working memory, motor performance.
      • Danelli
        • Reported the case of an Italian boy who at age 2.5 yrs was operated on to remove a tumour
        • Removed virtually all left hemisphere
        • After intense rehab, his language abilities improved, by age 17 his abilities had significantly improved
        • Only slightly slower at naming objects and some minor grammar issues at 17
      • Research is flawed
        • Maguire did not test taxi drivers before they became taxi drivers so a clear change could not be concluded
        • Research by Danelli was a case study so cannot be generalised
        • These methodological issues can affect the conclusions
      • Real life application
        • Following illness or injury, continued forms of physical therapy can be used to maintain improvement
        • Motor or speech therapy can be used after a stroke, this can helpthe brain to create new neural pathways
    • Factors influencing functional recovery after brain trauma
      • Perseverance
        • How much effort the individual is putting in, some do not try
      • Age
        • Younger brains recover more efficiently and quicker as the brains are more ‘plastic’
      • Gender
        • Women recover better after trauma as their brains are less lateralised and therefore function can transfer across hemispheres more easily


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