It was once believed that the brain was incapable of generating new cells. Therefore, the conclusion was that the brain was incapable of healing once it had been damaged, either by injury or by disease. Brain injuries caused by concussions and blows to the head as well as the cognitive degeneration caused by Alzheimer’s, strokes, or tumors, were considered irreversible diseases that were unrepairable by treatment. Currently, much research has been done in the area of brain health. Researchers have conclusive evidence that the brain’s cells do heal and repair themselves. The brains ability to heal is called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity (also called “brain plasticity”) can be defined as the brain’s ability to change, remodel and reorganize for the purpose of adapting to new situations. Despite the fact that the concept of neuroplasticity is relatively new, it is one of the most important discoveries in neuroscience. In short, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to rewire itself. The neural pathways in the brain are continually altered and fine-tuned, especially in response to new information generated by learning, life experiences, practicing a skill, exercising, and environmental changes. Neuroscience now views the brain and its neural circuits as flexible and capable of changing throughout the course of a lifetime.
The science of neuroplasticity is huge. The brains ability to adapt and rewire can have an effect on many conditions. Not only brain injuries from head trauma like sports concussions, but also cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition, how the brain works and functions within its neural pathways is directly related to and influences depression and anxiety, sensory issues, OCD, autism and addiction.
At present, the most commonly used therapies to repair the brain are: medications, injections, hyperbaric oxygen treatment (this is a game changer), cognitive therapy, and physical therapy to relearn motor and language skills. But new treatment options are also proving effective.
For instance, With the link between the spine and brain evident (the brain sends neural impulses through the spine), researchers have begun to look at how chiropractic may be used as a tool to help preserve positive neuroplasticity. Clinical studies have already begun, monitoring the effects of chiropractic on patients’ abilities to solve puzzles, multitask, and recall memories.
Some studies are already producing exciting findings, including a 3-year study comprised of 100 volunteers, presented at the International Research Symposium held at Sherman College held in South Carolina. The study monitored the mental activity of participants using electroencephalograms (EEG), comparing readings before and after chiropractic adjustments. In an overwhelming majority of readings, brain function showed improvements across the board.
In 2016, a study was published in the journal Neural Plasticity. The study revealed that chiropractic spinal adjustments changes brain function. Not only did the study take a documented look at brain function post-adjustment, it was studied and confirmed by an independent medical researcher. The researchers explained that this is solid scientific evidence that adjusting the spine changes the way the prefrontal cortex of the brain is processing information. It demonstrates that chiropractic care can change the way the brain works and shows that spinal function impacts brain function. One of the most interesting things about the changes observed was that the prefrontal cortex is responsible for behaviors, goal directed tasks, decision making, memory and attention, intelligence, processing of pain and emotional response to it, autonomic function, motor control, eye movements and spatial awareness. The study showed a change in brain function by almost 20% on average. This included significant changes in the prefrontal cortex.
More research is this area is being performed every day. It is exciting to know that chiropractic will have a role to play in the brain’s ability to rewire itself and help people with brain disorders, depression, anxiety, sensory issues and autism. Chiropractic’s positive effect on neuroplasticity will add another benefit to the list of reasons why preventative, maintenance chiropractic care is worthwhile for overall health.