Posts Tagged ‘neuroplasticity’

Exercise May Boost Recovery of Motor Function in Stroke Patients

Aerobic exercise improves cardiorespiratory fitness in patients with stroke, and also may have a beneficial effect on their brain function as well as help them improve recovery of motor function, according to the results of a new study.

Aerobic exercise elicits a variety of positive effects in people of all ages.

Recently, researchers have found significant improvements in aerobic exercise capacity among stroke patients who underwent a structured cycling exercise program.

“The effects of aerobic exercise may serve to prime the central nervous system in individuals with stroke to create an environment optimal for neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to reorganize itself),” Susan Linder, a research physical therapist at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, told a packed poster session at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Philadelphia.

“Our work in individuals with Parkinson’s disease indicates that forced exercise administered via a motor-assisted stationary bicycle results in increased cortical activation and improved motor and non-motor function when compared to voluntary exercise,” Linder said.

The precise mechanism responsible for improvements in patients with Parkinson disease is unknown, but Cleveland Clinic researchers hypothesize that aerobic exercise increases concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein released in the CNS that facilitates long-term enhancement of signals within the brain and promotes growth of dendrites, which are branched filaments in nerve cells.

“Pairing aerobic exercise with upper extremity repetitive task practice in individuals with stroke may exploit the neuroplasticity properties associated with BDNF and optimize motor learning,” said Linder.

IMPROVED MOTOR OUTCOMES

She reported the results of a study of 14 patients who had a stroke within the previous 6 to 12 months.

They were randomized into 3 groups.

One group performed a 45-minute session of aerobic exercise at a forced rate within their heart rate range on an exercise cycle, followed by 45 minutes of repetitive task practice with hands or arms.

The second group performed the same exercises but exercised at their own rate.

The third group did no aerobic exercise and performed two 45-minute sessions of upper extremity exercises.

All participants exercised 3 times a week for 8 weeks, and they were able to complete the cycling protocol with modifications for fatigue.

All were able to achieve hundreds of repetitions with repetitive task practice.

“Motor outcomes are trending in a positive direction for all groups, but the group who performed forced rate exercise displayed the most consistent improvements,” Linder said, noting that the control group had twice the amount of time doing upper extremity exercises.

“We also saw improvement in depression and quality of life in the aerobic exercise group trending toward favorable.”

Linder added, “We know that aerobic exercise can help stroke patients’ physical fitness.

Is there a neuroplasticity effect?

We hope that the byproduct of aerobic exercise is reduced amounts of rehabilitation time as well as doses that lead to better motor outcomes for stroke patients.”

The Cleveland Clinic researchers are expanding their research to include 75 patients and will add in neurological examinations.

Said Linder, “We plan to look at changes in structure of connectivity within the brain using imaging and resting MRI to see whether areas of brain regrow and improve neural connections with aerobic exercise.”

Meditation for the Modern World with The Simple Truth

The brain is an organ built to last, and change, even well into later life.

Scientists call the ability of the brain to change or remodel itself neuroplasticity.

This brain remodeling helps you meet the ever-changing physical, cognitive, emotional, and environmental demands that you are exposed to over the course of your life.

One way to change your brain for the better is through meditation.

Jeff Cannon teaches contemporary meditation and mindfulness to help business and community leaders meet the realities of the modern world.

In his book, The Simple Truth, Cannon shows readers how they can find their own Simple Truth, that is, act in accordance with who you are and follow your own path wherever it leads.

Here are a few of his concepts on the path to the Simple Truth:

1. Changing your life with the little choices

Lives change not from decisions you make from time to time, but by the little choices you make every day without even thinking.

The concept of Living with CaRE is a way to stop, think, and make good choices that can steer your life in the right direction.

CaRE is more than an acronym.

It is a pause button to interrupt the auto-responses we all make in our lives – sometimes to our regret.

The next time you make a decision to do something, stop for a moment and think to yourself:

What is Causing me to make this decision?

What are the different ways that I can Respond to this situation?

How will my response Effect my future?

Most important, how can I act so that my Response is the right one for me to steer my life in the right direction?

By being mindful of the small choices we can have control over the life we want to live.

2. 8-2-8 Breathing Meditation

A great way to start a meditation practice is to set aside 10 minutes at the start of your day and simply to focus on your breath.

An 8-2-8 Breathing Meditation is a great way to do this.

During your meditation close your eyes, inhale through your nose, and feel your stomach expand for a slow count of 8 seconds.

Retain the air for a count of 2, and then exhale slowly through your nose for another count of 8.

Simply repeat this until you feel a sense of calm and focus to start your day.

3. Mini-Meditations throughout your day

All too often people hesitate to benefit from meditation because they think it will take too long.

With so many great things attributed to meditation, it’s a shame.

The key for success here is not to think of sitting for hours on end, but instead, to use mini -meditations throughout your day can help you retain focus and calm.

When you start to feel agitated or stressed, set aside 1 to 2 minutes to return to the calm you had.

Whether it is a meeting at your job, kids, or relationship stressors incorporating mini-meditations will keep you sane no matter what goes on around you.

I like Cannon’s concepts of taking CaRE and mini-meditations.

I know I feel more relaxed since I started doing almost daily Tai Chi more than two years ago.

I like to think that’s my body, and my brain, thanking me for the change.