July 29, 2019

Brain Plasticity Will Blow Your Mind

New research on brain plasticity will blow your mind.  For example, every day new stem cells are produced in the lateral ventricles of the adult brain (1).   Using time lapse imaging scientists have  watched those new stem cells latch onto a blood vessel highway and drag themselves to their destination (2).  Brain chemicals push stem cells away from their birth place.  As the cells approach their destination more chemicals pull them in the right direction - amazing!

It is hard to believe neuroscientists used to believe everything we learn in life can be crammed into the memory cells we were born with.  Thank God the adult brain grows thousands of new memory cells every night (3). 

Many imaging studies have proven the adult brain can recover.  For example, Marshall saw regeneration of cells that control finger-thumb opposition in stroke survivors (4).  homeafterstroke.blogspot.com

1. Carreira, B., Carvalho, C., & Araujo, I. (2012). Regulation of injury-induced neurogenesis by    
   nitric oxide. Stem Cell International, article ID 895659, 15 pages.
2. Bozoyan, L., Khlghatyan, J., & Saghatelyan, A.  (2012). Astrocytes control the development of    
    the migration-promoting vascular scaffold in the postnatal brain via VEGF signaling, J. Neurosci,
    32, 1687-1704.
3. http://www.ruor.uottowa.ca/fr/bitstream/handle/10393/23287/Ceizar_Maheen_2012_thesis
4. Marshall, R., Perera, G., Krakauer, J., Constantine, R., & DeLaPaz, R. (2000). Evolution of
    cortical activation during recovery from corticospinal tract infartion. Stroke, 31, 656-661.

July 21, 2019

A Wakeup Call

I fell in the kitchen recently.  In 16 years most of my falls have occurred in this galley kitchen which requires lots of turning.  When I turn 180 degrees I begin by stepping backwards.  If I lean too far behind vertical I cannot always catch myself before I fall.  While I wait for a neurologist to clear me for knee replacement surgery I am using the time to figure out how to eliminate all falls in the kitchen.  I cannot afford to damage my new artificial knee during a fall or kneel on that knee while pushing myself up from the floor.

I moved the objects in the photo (see arrows) to create a narrower space.  When I see an obstacle in my peripheral vision, my brain tells my legs to slow down so I have time to think about what I am doing.  I am now taking itty-bitty tiny steps when I turn 180 degrees while cooking.  This new pattern has already become a habit.

Bottom Line: This post illustrates how staying in your home after a stroke requires problem solving for life.

July 12, 2019

Good Intentions Do Not Last for Weeks

Two friends who had total knee replacements looked intense when they talked about the pain when PTs stretched their knee after surgery.  Future pain motivated me to do 8 knee stretches my surgeon gave me.  BUT I know from not doing home programs after a stroke that good intentions do not last for weeks.  Anchoring exercises to tasks I already do helps me succeed.  I do the
8 exercises throughout the day instead of organizing each day's agenda around 30 minutes of exercise.  Daily activities are memory aids that eliminate my need to think.  See 3 examples below.

While lying down I am supposed to bend my knee by sliding my heel up to my buttock.  Since my knee is stiff when I wake up,
I do this exercise under the covers before I get out of bed.

While standing I am supposed to do hamstring curls.  Now I stop at my front door every time I come back from the kitchen after turning off the alarm that makes me get up from my computer every 20 minutes.  I hold onto the doorknob.

While sitting I am supposed to stretch my knee by hooking a strap around my foot.  I do this at night when I am watching TV.