Plasticity and functional recovery of the brain after trauma

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  • Created on: 31-05-22 15:36
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  • Plasticity and functional recovery of the brain after trauma
    • Brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. This could be the result of learning new information
    • Repairing itself after damage (functional recovery)
      • Following physical injury, or other forms of trauma such as a stroke, unaffected areas of the brain are often able to adapt and compensate for damaged areas.  
    • Neural regeneration organisation
      • The brain is able to rewire itself through the growth of new neurons and/or connections  between neurons to compensate for damaged areas.
    • Functional compensation
      • The brain can also reorganise itself. This is when there is a transfer of functions to undamaged areas.
    • Axonal sprouting
      • Growth of new nerve endings  to form new pathways
    • Denervation super sensitivity
      • Axons performing similar functions to damaged ones will become more sensitive to compensate. 
    • Reformation of blood vessels
      • Blood vessels will be recreated.
      • P - There is evidence to support brain plasticity.
        • E - Maguire et al. (2000) assessed hippocampal volume in London Taxi drivers compared with a matched control group. 
          • E -There was a significantly more volume of grey matter in the hippocampus which is associated with the development of spatial and navigational skills. 
            • L - This suggests that brain structure adapts with experience and therefore provides an insight into plasticity and functional recovery.
      • P -  Brain plasticity is less deterministic than original brain organisation/function theories 
        • E - It suggests that individuals can have an element of control over their brain recovery by engaging with therapy.   
          • E - Previous theories (loacalisation) were more deterministic because they implied that once the damage had been done, no function would return. 
            • L - This suggests that plasticity is an example of soft determinism. Behaviour is determined by our brains, but we can manipulate them by engaging in particular environments. 
      • P - Not all instances of plasticity are positive.
        • E - The brain’s ability to rewire itself can also have negative as well as positive consequences. 
          • E - For example, prolonged drug use results in poor cognitive function and a greater risk of dementia in individuals.
            • L - This means that the brain’s ability to rewire itself can sometimes have maladaptive behavioural consequences.
      • P - not all individuals show the same degree of plasticity/functional recovery as there are individual differences.
        • E - Functional plasticity reduces with age and therefore neural reorganisation is much greater in children than in adults.
          • E - This is because, in childhood, the brain is thought to be constantly adapting to new experiences and learning.  Research has also found that women tend to recover more effectively than men as their function is not as lateralised.  
            • L - This suggests there are different factors involved in determining the plasticity of the brain and the ability to recover will depend on both the location of the damage and the individual.


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