Neuroplasticity and Parkinson’s Disease

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganise itself both in its structure and how it functions. The brain continuously creates new cells (neurogenesis). When we practice new skills or experience new things our brain makes connections (synapses) to these new cells. These new connections are able to form within 15 minutes of a new activity being commenced are strengthened with repetition and weakened when they are not used.

So why is this relevant to Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain. The disease destroys cells (neurons) in an area of the brain called the Substantia Nigra. This results then in typical Parkinson’s symptoms such as a tremor, slow movement, and cognitive disturbances. It is because Parkinson’s disease is a degeneration of part of the brain that we can use neuroplasticity principles as a method of managing the disease.

Exercise and Neuroplasticity

As mentioned previously, learning new skills results in new connections made within the brain. We can, therefore, use new and tailored exercises to create these neuroplastic changes to occur in the brain of someone with Parkinson’s disease. When it comes to skill acquisition, methods need to be variable, random and challenging. These methods allow for skills to be transferred from the gym setting to everyday life. Further, important principles to consider for an effective neuroplastic based program include the intensity, amplitude, and complexity of activities.

Research also indicates the earlier this treatment is started the better! It is not necessary to wait until symptoms present to start neuroplastic training. If you have been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease or have known about your Parkinson’s for a while, drop by an Optimum Health Solutions and speak to one of our Accredited Exercise Physiologists about how we can promote neuroplastic changes through an individualised exercise program tailored to your needs!

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