Creating your own brain improvement programme
If you have a brain injury a large part of recovery is re-training the brain to rebuild neural pathways damaged by the injury. The brain goes into extreme panic & shut down to repair itself and then you have to rehabilitate it back to functionality. Yet unlike other parts of our body that we injure we still expect the brain to work relatively normally – thoughts, emotions, behaviours, basic and higher level cognitive functioning – so that we can have relationships, look after our homes & go to work, let alone physical functionality like basic balance. The brain can’t recover if you just demand it to work; you have to rehabilitate it like you would go to physiotherapy for a broken leg to help you walk again. For extreme brain injury there are specialist doctors that will support survivors, but often those with mild TBIs don’t get the same medical support. I found myself having to work out my own recovery path, experimenting throughout with what worked or didn’t, and sometimes coming back to things at a later date.
About a year after my accident a fellow Traumatic Brain Injury survivor recommended the book ‘Smarter’ by Dan Hurley to me. It is a very good book that reviews the different scientific studies that have been conducted on how you can become smarter i.e. more intelligent. I found this book great for tips on how I could further rehabilitate myself with a better scientific understanding behind what I was choosing to do. By focusing on how to train the brain to become more intelligent Hurley looks at studies throughout the range of ability and age in the population. The book’s overview of strategies is really helpful in informing your own ‘brain improvement’ programme.
I will write summaries with my interpretation of sections from ‘Smarter’ with some ideas for exercises as blog posts. You can take different parts & try them out for yourself to see what works for you, but remember some parts will take longer to see the benefits or you may find more challenging at first; this only means that you need to persevere or try again when you feel like you can cope with it better. The sections will be on the following:
- Cognitive Control
- Physical Exercise
- Mindfulness / meditation