Thursday, May 21, 2009

Scientists have discovered that you can change your brain by what you imagine not just by actions.

Many times I've mentioned "the new science of pain". I written about how the brain changes with pain. It's been shown by imaging that imagined movements or seeing movements activate the same brain pathways as if actually doing the activity, "monkey see, monkey do". From this discovery mirror therapy was developed.

It's also known that if we think negatively about our pain (this is the worst pain ever), our brain changes in an unhelpful way, just as it changes in a beneficial way when we think positively about our pain (I can cope with this).

So scientists have discovered that you can change your brain by what you imagine not just by actions. You can benefit by practicing feeling happy. The left frontal cortex, known as the seat of happiness, will be activated. Just by practicing, or imagining feeling happy, you can create the pathways to happiness.


Usiku (oo-SEE-koo) said...

So is this the same or at least very similar to visualization in other activities such as sports? What effect would you imagine this has on a person's ability to imagine quitting smoking or not drinking or eating more healthy?

If this frontier, the brain, holds this kind of results and promise, then it would seem that research for a lot of what ails of should be incorporating this to cure us or lessen our dependence on drugs or other invasive or costly therapies.

jeisea said...

Yes Usiku
I think it is. I know of a respected organization here which helps cancer sufferers summon the body's resources to help itself. I believe that the brain makes decisions for what happens in our body. We know we cannot feel pain unless the brain decides there is pain. We know we can trick the brain using mirror therapy or virtual reality etc. Is the future of medicine better directed at brain research and ways to change the brain to stop eg inflammation? I suspect this may be so.

You have made an astute observation Isuku.

Anonymous said...

Hi, My name is Jane. I have suffered CRPS for 18 months now. Medication is not an option for me. I have tried the mirror box type of therapy, but whilst doing exercises, I was reminded of my limb, so it was counter productive in a way. Then one day one of our mirrors fell and the frame broke. My husband put the mirror in the corner which is next to another mirror on the same corner of the other wall creating a mirrored corner. When you stand central to both these mirrors, your left reflection is actually your right side, therefore confusing what you are actually doing and seeing. I haven't had relief as yet, but I have noticed how I stand lopsided, when lifting my arms I feel my affected limb is as high as the unaffected limb, but its not, so I am learning over again to stand straight.
Because it is on a larger scale, I concentrate on my entire body, it is like a diversion. One other of a few techniques I use to deal with the pain.
I suppose its what ever works, hey!!

jeisea said...

Hi Jane

That's fascinating. I've used a hinged double makeup mirror to treat pain in the side of my face. It worked very well. What you describe is different. I'll pass this on to some of the researchers and also copy your comment and put as a post.

I wonder what your technique was when you did the original mirror therapy. I do it for a very short time, sometimes only 10 seconds, but do it several times a day. I also change the inputs eg I might have music on or be eating or have a fan going. Adding extras keeps the exercise fresh. New research suggests that to create new neural pathways the experience needs to be new. Adding in something that activates the different senses, I think, is a good idea. If you have time to watch, the series of 6 videos I recently posted explains this a bit.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeisea, I will watch those videos, not that I am all that savvy on the computer!! I'll give it a go anyway!!
You asked me what my techniques were using the mirror therapy. Well I didn't use it for long, I had to think about my limb too much. Not thinking about my ailment helps more. So I stopped.
I have resorted to doing "normal" actions like rubbing cream in my legs, face, arms or anywhere really, brushing my hair, there are so many little things we do and not realise just how much we move our hands to do the simple things. Not so painless when crps is in the hand. All the "little" actions that cause pain and discomfort, when watching in the corner mirror its fooling the mind much like the mirror box.
Diversion and prevention of a flare are tools I use everyday. It doesn't always work, but I find that it helps most times. Its when the triggers change slightly or new ones arise that throw me. Oh then theres the weather, wind,stress and then there is over doing it and not doing enough. Not that I am pain free, but its manageable some of the time.
Mostly I meditate, divert my thoughts, positive affirmations, creams, fish oil, exercise (for my entire body and soul)and more.
I am interested in any views on how to deal with this condition other than meds.
I hope in passing my accidental findings to researchers will help others. Anything to be med free and pain free sounds good to me!!!
If anyone would have told me that my life was about to change as it did after my fall, I would have laughed, I have never had to deal with anything like this before and would find it hard to believe that it really existed. You know what they say "walk a mile in my shoes".
Its not just a matter of treating the ailment, treating ourselves as a whole the best way possible is a key. I think anyway!

jeisea said...

Hi Jane

Thanks for replying. I highly recommend you go to Matthias's blog
Matthias is a physiotherapist extrordinaire. He's written a series of wel researched posts about mirror therapy and brain retraining. Matthias has had contact with researchers including those doing research with Iraq veterans at West Point in the US. An explanation can be found in a series of posts I made about him here. I just reposted them on my blog today for you.

The reason I recommend these is that you seem very smart and this will help you with understanding.

I also suggest you click on links to Yamamoto New Scalp Acupuncture. It was devised by a neurologist to treat neuropathic pain. It works on the vaso something system (can't remember what exactly) but what it does is activate the parasympathetic nervous system and brings about calm. I think crps is a bit like post traumatic stress disorder in that the autonomic nervous system becomes alarmed. It sends inflammation messages and pain messages (of course coming from the brain). However YNSA actually stopped crps symptoms for me last year. I felt fantastic, something I never thought would happen again. All was well till I had another accident with extreme pain. Then all returned immediately.

Now I'm having it again and hope it will work again as before. I had my first treatment on Friday and another tomorrow. I'll post how this goes. I don't know where you live but I believe there are about 15 doctors train in this in Australia. In the US I recommend looking up "DR Feely" on google. In Germany there is a big training center just google "YNSA". Otherwise I suggest you google your country and YNSA.

My doctor recommends firm but not hard massage with cold pressed sesame oil followed by warm heat. Sesame oil is warming and has other benefits. You are very astute in working out so early that you need to treat your whole body. Being aware of what you do and how you do it helps you be mindful of moving normally, very importing for brain retraining, I believe. That urge not to move, to protect etc is very strong in CRPS and MUST be ignored. You must touch and move normally. I go even further and suggest that you add in other sensory inputs at the same time to re invigorate the experance. Remewmber new neural pathways and new brain cell growth comes from new experiences.
Lastly for now, consider eating the best way you can afford, fresh and a mix of colours.

Sorry about the length of this reply.
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