Life after Stroke

The infant brain has an overabundance of neurons with few synaptic connections at birth. The brain learns from implicit memory, which is the first impressions a baby has from the first day of his life and those remain available to us throughout our lives. Implicit memory happens automatically. The baby does not say “O yes, I remember that toy, it made a loud noise before, it might happen again’’, the baby reacts with a fright instantly.

The brain constantly scans the environment and tries to determine what comes next. It distinguishes between familiar and new information which is the mind’s attempt to “remember’’ the future. When the next moment is anticipated, the brain is ready to handle the environment and helps us to plan for the future.

By the second birthday toddlers have developed a new skill. They talk about recollections of the day’s events. This kind of memory includes knowledge of their world. This development is experience dependent. This kind of memory is called explicit memory.

Neurons that fire together, wire together. Cells that are repeatedly together will associate. These neural associations involve metabolic changes for short term memory. And more structural changes involve long term memory.

The alteration of synaptic connections, changes the probabilities of neuronal firing.
Memories are based on the binding together of neuronal patterns or neurons firing in specific ways. People’s recollections differ and depend on the way the brain creates representations. If you were bitten by a dog during the time visiting the Eiffel tower, you may begin to feel pain or fear when you think of the Tower.

The brain is an anticipation or scanning machine that constantly scans the environment and tries to determine what comes next. How do we anticipate: prior experiences shape our anticipatory models. The mind attempts to “remember’’ the future. When the next moment is anticipated, the brain is ready to handle the environment. It depends on implicit memory.

Working memory is a recollection of items from the immediate sensory process and lasts half a minute, if there is no rehearsal. Working memory is the chalkboard of the mind and involves what we are thinking of at the time.

An example of long term memory is remembering a close friend’s phone number, which should be placed in long term storage. Remembering the number of a shop you need to call once only, is working memory. You hold on to those digits just long enough to dial the number. Afterwards the number vanishes.

If working memory persists you are bombarded with irrelevant information from the past – so forgetting is important for memory build up. Long term memory does not last for ever. For items to become part of long term memory, a process called cortical consolidation has to occur.

How does this happen? By rehearsing existing memory traces which link with new associations, new associations link up with existing memory traces and forms new clusters. The new clusters depend on REM sleep stage, which is an attempt to make sense of the day’s activities.

This cortical consolidation can take months or years. For example, if someone had been in an accident in January. He may retrieve information from October to December, but after that he can’t remember, which is called retrograde amnesia.
Why? Retrograde amnesia is information which did not have a chance to be integrated and encode into the long term explicit memory. He will be able to remember old info that had been encoded before the accident.

There is a difference between observer recollection and participant recollection.
The observer recollection is a situation which we observe from a distance and the participant recollection is a recollection where we are a participant, which is more emotionally intense.

We will recall experiences easier where sights, sounds, smells or your state of mind or emotions played a role. Why do we remember events so intensely of which the recollection is not accurate? Because of the personal experience that had been influenced by sound, smell and emotions.

How is it possible that a person who suffered brain injury or a stroke can improve cognitive functioning?

Neurons that fire together, wire together and synaptic connections cause neural firing, which involve metabolic changes for short term memory and long term memory. Neurons firing in specific ways repeatedly and new synaptic connections that are created and enhance learning and memory.

Neurofeedback (NF) is an alternative therapy through which brain functioning can be improved after a patient suffered a stroke.

Brain waves are monitored by placing sensors or electrodes on the scalp, which register the electrical signals inside of the brain over specific associative areas. Brainwaves carry messages to and from all parts of the body through the nervous system. Breathing, heartbeat, muscle coordination, metabolism, blood sugar levels, memory, attention, learning, emotions and all cognitive functioning or mental activity are controlled by brainwaves.

During NF the brainwaves are monitored, it is non-invasive in other words, no impulses go into the brain.

How does the training work? Through operant conditioning, the brain is taught to produce productive and effective brain frequencies, in order to enhance emotional stability and cognitive functioning and specific functions or problem areas can be addressed.

For more information: Dr A Peché 0823356133