Change and neuroplasticity

Just as a brain injury survivor can find hope in neuroplasticity, so can someone rebuilding during and after the pandemic.

Change and neuroplasticity

Last summer, there were numerous commentary pieces and articles on how lockdown had changed us. Almost everyone tried to draw a line under the pandemic and move on. I published a blog which looked at the good & bad memories of lockdown, now that we were out of that weird time. Yeah. Awkward.

A year on from the first UK lockdown, and in the middle of the third, the new trend is to reflect on how we got through the first year of the pandemic. I started a blog like that too, then figured I was just making the same mistake again.

Change is coming

There is a strong desire to get back to the way things used to be, but too much has changed for that to be possible. Uncertainty is scary. We have been living with it for a year, and I’m afraid we will all need to live with it for a long time yet.

We have changed, and our lives will change too. We don’t yet know how much.

This is familiar to anyone with a brain injury. Too much has happened to a brain injury survivor for them to be exactly who they were before. Instead, there is a pre-injury self and a post-injury self. The difference between these versions of ourselves is known as self-discrepancy1.

I suspect that a lot of us will experience self-discrepancy in the months and years ahead. The desire to return to normal, to our pre-injury or pre-pandemic self, is strong. But, in some cases, a return will be impossible.

Neuroplasticity

Just as a brain injury survivor can find hope in neuroplasticity, so can someone rebuilding during and after the pandemic. Neuroplasticity is ‘the concept that the brain can rewire itself’2. Or, as Dr Seemungal puts it, ‘the brain can change in response to training.’3

This makes sense, as change is not new. Change happens all the time. Usually, it causes a little ruckus and then we become used to it. Our brain becomes used to it. This happens on small time scales, for instance the first week after school holidays is a struggle and then a routine sets in. Or it can happen over a longer time, as we become more fluent in a language or adept at a musical instrument.

Hope for the future

I like the concept of neuroplasticity as it is proof that we can change. Whether we need to adapt to a small thing such as a new exercise routine or something larger like adjusting to a new society, our brains can do it.

Scientists have just found the reason why our brains are large. We learn more about how brains work, age and react to training and injury every day. There is an exciting future in brain research out there.

For now, I’m glad to know that neuroplasticity will help me to adjust to the next change.

  1. https://www.nrtimes.co.uk/why-redefining-who-you-are-after-a-brain-injury-could-be-the-most-important-aspect-of-recovery/ ↩︎
  2. https://www.nrtimes.co.uk/how-new-tech-and-an-old-concept-are-shaping-stroke-care/ ↩︎
  3. O’Connor, P. (2021) Living with mild brain injury: the difficulties fo diagnosis and recovery from post-concussion syndrome. London: Routledge. ↩︎