Rewiring the Brain After a Stroke

If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke, the road to recovery can be long. While the brain injury suffered by stroke patients cannot be reversed, recent strides in understanding the brain have helped us make great progress in restoring function so that many patients can live as independently as possible with a good quality of life.

People with a disability tend to avoid using impaired limbs, a behavior called learned nonuse. However, studying the principle of neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections, scientists are discovering how the brain compensates for injury and disease, such as stroke. In many cases, in order for the brain to reorganize itself properly, the nerve cells need to be stimulated through activity. That is where physical therapy comes in.

To treat patients who have suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury, we can employ a technique developed by neuroscientist Dr. Edward Taub, called constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT). This technique teaches the brain to rewire itself. With CIMT, we restrain the side unaffected by stroke—for example, by putting the unaffected arm in a sling—while the patient performs various tasks using the affected side. Without this treatment, the patient would likely perform tasks using only the unaffected side.

This repetitive use of impaired limbs can teach the brain to rewire itself and use the affected side more. This has been shown to improve the quality of movement in most patients. The technique is also used for patients with multiple sclerosis and war veterans who have incurred traumatic brain injury.

Together with your physician, we can ensure the fullest recovery possible from a stroke. By analyzing factors such as your strength, endurance, range of motion, gait abnormalities and sensory deficits, we will develop an individualized rehabilitation program to help you regain as many motor functions as possible.