Why "Running with Bunions"?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

How to Grow Brain Cells (A True Story)

Neurogenesis (definition)
The birth of new brain cells

July 31, 2001 started like any other day for Canadian author Howard Engel. His things were in their places, his body moved in space, food had taste, his hearing worked. Then Howard opened the morning newspaper. The alphabet was there, but in unrecognizable configurations.
It seems Howard had suffered a stroke overnight, damaging the area in his brain that converts writing into language. This would be devastating news to anyone, but as Howard's living depended upon his ability to read and write, he was particularly motivated to find a solution.

Howard participated in therapy. Howard struggled. Over time, he discovered his brain could translate writing into language if he traced individual letters by hand. He started with pen and paper and advanced to tracing in the air. Howard then used his tongue to copy letters onto the roof of his mouth and finally, onto the back of his teeth.

Recovery was difficult. It took time and persistence. But in the end? Howard learned to read again…with his tongue.

Scientists once believed neurons were created exclusively in the womb. Then, in 1962, Joseph Altman injected adult rats with a radioactive, neuron identifying, molecule. When he examined the rats' brains Altman discovered new cells! Further study indicated neurogenesis occurs primarily in areas of the hippocampus responsible for memory and learning.

How to Grow Brain Cells:
Eat Well
Later research indicates "precursor" cells - neural cells still in development - may be independently blasted to affected areas of a newly injured brain.

Neurogenesis slows with age but the human brain is capable of regeneration throughout a person's life. The brain's ability to grow cells and establish new neural pathways is enhanced through cognitive enrichment like the study of language, music or nature and engaging in new experiences. Exercise and a preservative-free diet also stimulate cell growth.

Therapies that include language practice, repetitive effort and sensory experiences increase functional abilities of a person with autism. Is therapeutic success the result of new brain cells created? Or are new neural pathways forged through therapy?

Until the causes of autism are better understood it's difficult to pinpoint how or if the creation of new brain cells in a differently composed brain affects an individual's abilities over the long term.
How to Grow Brain Cells:
Read, Write, Play
What is known: activities that stimulate neuron growth involve the brain at work. Passive activities like tv watching and scrolling through a computer or phone do little more than enter data without contributing to the brain's revival.
Studies show that the best results occur when intervention begins early and is consistent, persistent and tenacious. Read, write, play piano. Bounce on a trampoline, hit a baseball, race around a track, climb a tree. Touch something soft, dance in the rain, swim in mud, ride a streetcar, pet a beetle, work a crossword puzzle. Eat protein and iron rich foods, consume raw veggies, avoid processed fare.
There are no guarantees but it appears that with time, endeavor and toil? It's possible that you, too, could one day read…with your tongue.


charles W Hedrick said...

I learned something!
But could you explain what goes on in the mind when one pets a beetle?
Charles Hedrick

Lucinda H. Kennaley said...

My mind takes on a squeamish sort of "fight or flight" mentality. I imagine for those brave enough to indulge, petting a beetle would be an interesting sensory experience.