THE YEAR OF THE BRAIN: Neuroplasticity picture by Scott Barrows
What a great time to be interested in the study of neuroscience. Now there is a magazine on every newsstand that has pictures of brains with captions like FEED YOUR BRAIN, HOW THE BRAIN REWIRES ITSELF, BUILD A BRAIN, etc. As a PT/Feldenkrais practitioner™ I have been very intrigued about the study of neuroscience. I watch changes happen when a client accesses their own human potential by turning the learning switch on when they move to learn. The key is helping people know that they have these powerful tools. Movement is our first language and when movement hurts, we can turn off exploring our world this way. Pain that lasts long enough like chronic pain can change our body maps (holographic maps in our brain that tell us where we are in space that are effected through our learning experiences). This can happen in such a way that we no longer have the adaptability to move in many directions. When pain has lasted long after an injury, pain can become chronic.Often we address treating pain as a cause and effect problem, but pain can also be learned. Once this happens, many associations that were learned at the time of encountering pain signals can also trigger a pain response. Now you are not just dealing with the unhealed pain but the pain that has been learned along the way. Scientists are now exploring chronic pain as something truly different than acute pain. When I work with clients that have had pain for a long period of time, I start to help them improve their body awareness through exploring areas of their body that does not hurt. The pain source is not ignored, in fact, it is clarified. Then, as the client searches for sensing other areas that have other sensations, there can be other brain signals that are aroused to diminish the heightened pain response. Comfort scales, easy movement scales and other sensory tools like listening to movement can be very creative ways to explore movement without pain. Imagining movement without pain is highly effective, but this may be very difficult for people who have had to live with long term pain. The Feldenkrais Method® and mindfulness training through meditation are highly successful tools to assist in this process. Both strategies allow people to explore at their own rate and to access the brain in a way that encourages neurogenesis, the capacity to reorganize the brain pertaining to experiential learning.