Exploring plasticity in neurorehabilitation

Acquired Brain Injury admissions in the UK have increased by 10% since 2005-6. Between 2016- 2017, there were approximately one ABI admission every 90 seconds to UK hospitals. Men are 1.5 times more likely than women to be admitted for head injury. However, female head injury admissions have risen 23% since 2005-6. 

Not all types of treatment will be the same or take the same amount of time since every brain injury is unique. Unlike other cells in the body, brain cells cannot regenerate when they are damaged or destroyed. Nonetheless, the brain is able to restructure itself, we called this “neuroplasticity”.In the following paragraph is a case study of how our brain is transferring functions away from the affected brain area and to a new part.

The study “Motor Recovery After Early Brain Damage” from U Sabatini, D Toni, P Pantano, G Brughitta, A Padovani, L Bozzao, and G L Lenzi describes the following case: “A 31-year-old man had a left-sided hemiplegia at the age of 12, followed by good motor recovery despite a large right cortical-subcortical lesion. Single-photon emission computed tomography with motor activation study showed cerebral blood flow increases in the left premotor and sensorimotor cortices irrespective of the hand he was moving, without flow changes in the right hemisphere.”

After suffering a brain injury, experts in rehabilitation are there to help the patient in every step during their recovery process. Patients can receive a variety of therapies, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. In this list, we can also include friends and family members that help with the patient’s recovery if given appropriate instruction. For instance, when the patient had a stroke, the family can support the patient during their daily exercise routine in order to improve their recovery process and provide them more independence

The primary focus of rehabilitation in a brain injury is to help the damaged brain to learn new ways of working in order to minimise the long-term impact of brain injury. The earlier rehabilitation starts, the better results for the patient. Even when the patient is still in a coma, an intensive multidisciplinary stimulation program can recover or compensate for lost skills.

This is supported by several studies that are highlighting the quicker a patient receives therapy, the higher the chance of better results on their recovery. Researchers found a big difference in the patient's outcomes, depending on whether traditional care or early rehabilitation was used. To support this, the NHS have published “strong evidence” that rehabilitation in specialist centers for people with traumatic brain injury is effective and that "early transfer to specialist centres and more intense rehabilitation programmes" are cost-effective. The evidence supports that an early beginning neurorehabilitation in the trauma centre promotes functional recovery of patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury as compared to usual care.

The European Neuro Convention running on the 17th & 18th March at NEC, Birmingham focuses on rehabilitation. Join 3,500 brain and spine experts for industry-leading education and exhibits from household names including Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research, Spinal Injuries Association and the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust.