Do you know the human brain weighs only about three to four pounds yet contains about 100 billion neurons? Isn’t that stupendous?
One may ask how is the brain able to formulate, retain and even alter the information it processes? The answer is Neuroplasticity, that is Brain plasticity. This term refers to the ability of the brain to alter, change and adapt as a result of life experiences and in response to growth.
At infancy, the brain grows rapidly and almost triples in size as an infant grows into a toddler; but drops significantly as one becomes an adult. Hence, neurons that are used frequently develops stronger connections and those rarely utilized eventually dies.
Neuroplasticity occurs either functionally or structurally. While functional plasticity occurs when the brain transports functions from a damaged part of the brain to an undamaged part, structural plasticity happens as a result of the brain modifying its physical structure as a result of learning which is predominantly affected by age and the environment.
Subsequently, Occupational therapy is the use of meaningful everyday activities in aiding people participate in exercises they may want to do but are unable to do them as a result of mental health, injuries or other impairments and disabilities.
Evolution of Neuroplasticity and Occupational Therapy.
Neuroplasticity: until the mid-90’s, researchers believed that the development of the human brains were fixated, thus could only occur during childhood. This theory was debunked as evidence surfaced around 1960 showing proof that the brain was capable of modifying or rewiring itself following damage.
Occupational Therapy: this practice is as old as man and can be dated back to the 100Bc where the greek physician Asclepiades, treated patients with mental illness using therapeutic baths. Occupational therapists believe that by feeding the soul and body the adequate skills it needed, it triggers the brain to produce the desired output.
Clinical Benefits of Incorporating Neuroplasticity and Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy is a practice borne out of a need, a need that with the reinforcement of a particular habit, a patient will be availed more opportunity of sending important information to the neurons in the brain, communicating in trillions of synapses to produce the desired external output.
Moreso, rehabilitation, recovery and re-education are all based on the concept of neuroplasticity. This implies that it is possible to enhance cerebral reorganization by external inputs (occupational therapy). Thus, by incorporating neuroplasticity and occupational therapy into designing the goals and plans of clients, a better, more efficient and faster recovery rate is achievable.
To round off, although Neuroplasticity and occupational therapy are independent practices, they must exist in a symbiotic relationship for the wholeness of a client. Such that, while occupational therapy incorporates principles of motor, sensory and effective cognitive task into creating optimum condition for a successful rehabilitation; Neuroplasticity ensures that these novel activities are utilized by the brain. Succinctly put by Santiago Ramon y Cajal, ‘any man could, if he were so inclined be the sculptor of his own brain’.