As late as several decades ago, brain tissue was assumed not to regenerate, with catastrophic consequences for stroke victims, who had largely to heal on their own if they ever did. Now it is widely recognized that the brain, like any other organ, always tries to heal.
But that was not without controversy. See, for example, “A Christmas tale: Neuroscientist discovers hope for stroke victims – and science establishment’s hostility”
Today, however, the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society has put out a special open access issue on the subject (Volume 21 / Special Issue 10 / November 2015), focusing on the importance of continued physical activity. Comes at a good time, as increased longevity means that more people struggle with dementias, which are unfortunately often seen as intractable even when they are not.
Even very aged humans for example, can show at least some healing, with encouragement. No guarantees, but worth a try*.
From the special issue’s Introduction:
Over the past 40 years, there has been an exponential increase in the number of publications regarding the effects of physical activity and exercise on human brain structure, brain function, neurocognitive performance, and neuroplasticity related to healthy cognitive function across the developmental period, and protection from age-related cognitive decline and all forms of dementia. While we have focused our attention to the effects of physical activity in humans, with a perspective on brain plasticity related to cognition, there is an equally explosive body of literature that uses animal models to document the mechanisms for exercise-induced neuroplasticity. Moreover, there are increasingly more papers that focus on the mental health and mood enhancing benefits of physical activity, particularly in regard to clinical affective and anxiety disorders.
The papers within this Special Issue make a substantial contribution to the growing body of literature in humans that point to the neuroprotective effects of physical activity in humans. The variety of approaches, from interventions to cross-sectional comparisons to the effects of acute exercise; the different durations, modes, and intensities of exercise and physical activity; the use of neurocognitive, neuroimaging, and electrocortical measurement tools; and the documentation of these effects within several different clinical samples that are at increased risk for neurodegeneration or disorders of brain function, will help to advance the field and to stimulate future investigations to address the as yet unanswered questions regarding physical activity and brain plasticity. More.
Communicating with people with dementia (Most late-life confusion problems can be ameliorated or eased in some way, provided they can be correctly identified. )
Is dementia a fate worse than death? No, just a walk through phases of life we don’t understand.
Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away
One very old man I (O’Leary for News) visit frequently loses, then regains, the ability to speak, as – one must suppose – his brain accommodates the insults of declining nature. A young nurse went up to him recently, and expecting only the too-frequent blank smile, said, “Norm, you’re looking great!”
He straightened up and replied, “Not as great as you!” C’est la vie. As long as it lasts.
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