As you progress in your post-stroke rehabilitation, you’ll realize that some things aren’t quite as they used to be. And while the experience is different for every patient, the underlying cause is the same. Post-stroke disability results from damage to the region of the brain that controls motor function. With this basic principle in mind, a team of researchers in Germany conducted a study. They measured brain activity in 18 patients over seven weeks. They learned that the more severe the damage on the stroke-affected side of the brain, the more severe the disability. In turn, the more complex the recovery. This seems logical, but this wasn’t their only discovery.
They also found that severe damage in the stroke-affected side of the brain correlated to an increase in activity in the ‘healthy’ side of the brain. Consequently, this corresponded with a reduction in activity in the stroke-affected side. Since rehabilitation aims to promote improvements in the stroke-affected side of the brain, this imbalance could be a limiting factor in recovery. Their conclusion? The key to recovery could lie in restoring this balance of activity.
How does this relate to your therapy?
So how should this influence your approach to therapy? Put simply, any rehabilitation program should take your individual ‘brain activity’ profile into account. By personalizing the approach, your therapist can help to ensure that you are exercising the stroke-affected areas of your brain while limiting the activity of the healthy side. This could include employing techniques such as constraint-induced therapy, which forces patients to ‘exercise’ the affected areas of the brain while ‘deactivating’ the unaffected areas. Also using transcranial magnetic stimulation directly stimulates specific regions, ensuring that therapy is focused on the affected side of the brain. Both of these are methods that help to weaken the weakness in your brain.
So talk with your therapist about tailoring your rehabilitation to strike the right balance. It could be the key to your recovery.
The lead author of this study was Jitka Veldema, Helios Klinik Kipfenberg, Kipfenberg, Germany.