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What are neuroplasticity therapies?

Neuroplasticity Therapies aim to optimise brain function.

Neuroplasticity therapies use a scientific understanding of the brain to assess function and target particular regions and/or neural pathways in the brain to stimulate. This is done via various therapeutic interventions which can stimulate areas of the brain to promote increased function.

If using these therapies, it is always recommended that you work with a practitioner skilled in neuroplasticity therapies.

The reasons someone might choose to use neuroplasticity therapies, and also the four subsections of the field are those which aim to:

  • Create brain function
  • Restore brain function
  • Improve brain function
  • Maintain brain function

Once brain function is optimised, this can have a transformative effect on various symptoms, behaviours, emotional stability, sleep, confidence, ability to focus, memory and more.

What ‘optimised’ means is very much on an individual basis, and will rely on a mixture of:

  • Nature – our genes
  • Nurture- the environment and opportunities which we are exposed to will shape us;  equally lifestyle factors such as sleep, diet, exercise, etc
  • Anatomy and physiology – whether our brains are free from injury or not; and, for example, how well fuelled they are

Each individual has a potential level for optimal brain function.

However, there have been some remarkable stories of people functioning at extraordinary levels despite having brain injuries or genes which should affect neurological development and functioning – so there is always hope, despite the odds.

Create, Restore, Improve, Maintain – the uses of Neuroplasticity Therapies

Neuroplasticity Therapies use the Principles of Neuroplasticity in order to be effective; however, there are four main uses of neuroplasticity therapies, and these differ depending on the desired outcomes for the person using them.  These can be remembered by the mnemonic “C.R.I.M”: Create, Restore, Improve and Maintain.

Use What outcome are you aiming for?
Create brain function Creation of new connections (between neurons) in the brain should happen as part of the normal and expected phases of neuro-development: the normal phases in which the brain would develop from in the womb to adult maturity.  Neuroplasticity Therapies would be used to target regions of or pathways in the brain which have not reached maturity within the expected time frame.
Restore brain function Neuroplasticity therapies to restore brain function are used when there has been a brain injury (e.g. stroke, hypoxia, concussion, ABI, etc), and which has taken functions and skills away. The neuroplasticity therapeutic interventions for brain injury rehabilitation target the affected brain regions and/or pathways, often to rehouse function elsewhere (as well as helping areas of the brain to heal.)
Improve brain function This area of use for neuroplasticity therapies is for almost anyone!  If they are looking to improve or fine-tune their brain or take steps to make sure their brain is functioning at tip-top condition.  Typically, this might be used by athletes, musicians or CEOs of companies as they reach 50 years+.  However, it can be use by anyone interested improving aspects such as intellect, social, emotional, behavioural, musical, physical skills, and more.  These types of neuroplasticity therapies can also be used within a school setting as interventions to support and optimise normal brain development and function
Maintain brain function There are many principles of neuroplasticity which can be used to maintain good brain function.  This may help some people to keep their brains as ‘youthful’ as possible, reducing the chances of neurodegenerative disease.  Although some general principles can apply for most people, additionally, some people can benefit from having a personalised approach

The Neuroplasticity Therapies Umbrella

Neuroplasticity Therapies bring together a wide range of professions and fields of research which use neuroplasticity-based principles and practices to create, restore and/or improve function.  With increasing frequency, what has become apparent is that as researchers and practitioners from these various professions seek to explore and enhance the impact their profession can have upon neurological issues, so there are materialising areas of commonality: the modalities which one profession finds useful are closely mirrored in the interventions used by another; and this area of convergence is where we find the field of Neuroplasticity Therapies.

As these amazing people have researched, so the knowledge of impact of these therapies on the brain is evolving, and the impact upon the brain of many therapies is becoming better understood.  As people understand more about the mechanisms in the brain behind why things work, so these clever people are beginning to understand and utilise this knowledge to use specific and targeted therapies to improve brain function!

Many professions now have at least a few individuals in their field who are developing and applying a ‘neurological understanding’ to their work: applying knowledge and principles from neuroscience to evolve a better understanding of the impact of their work on brain function.  Equally, and as a part of this, many of these professions are working with people who have neurological issues.  From this knowledge and practice they are developing new ways to assess and treat brain function.  These are umbrella-ed as ‘neuroplasticity therapies’.

Many different therapies fall under the neuroplasticity therapies umbrella, these include:

  • Psychology
  • Physiotherapy
  • Olfaction
  • Audiology
  • Sleep training
  • Diet-based interventions
  • Functional Neurology (Chiropractic)
  • Neuro-developmental therapies
  • Scent therapy
  • Vestibular therapies
  • Feldenkrais Movement Therapies
  • Neurofeedback
  • Laser therapies
  • Vision therapy
  • Kinesiology
  • Auditory therapy
  • Sensory-based therapies
  • Respiration-based therapies
  • Emotional/Social/Behavioural
  • Music therapy
  • Cranial sacral therapy
  • Speech and language therapy
  • Fascial therapy
  • Yoga
  • Cognitive stimulation
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Optometry
  • Outdoors (sunlight, nature-bathing)
  • Meditation
  • Exercise / movement
  • And more

The Venn diagram below also helps to illustrate how various different professions are arriving at similar techniques for assessment and treatment of issues relating to the nervous system.

In many different professions and areas of research, various people have become interested in the neuroscience of their field of practice.

What is particularly fascinating, is that although many of these professions seem very diverse, frequently there is an overlap in what they are discovering and practicing: their work is revealing the “brain-body contract”, in which the brain and body are constantly reacting and responding to each other. Coupled with an increased understanding of the human connectome (the neural pathways and inter-relationships of brain regions), Neuroplasticity Therapies are leading way towards a very holistic (meaning whole-body) approach to enhancing brain function.

Where to find a Neuroplasticity Therapies Practitioner?    

There are several professions which fall under the umbrella of ‘Neuroplasticity Therapies’.  Commonly, these have been existing professions where a few extraordinary people have taken the time and effort to explore and really understand the neurological mechanisms at play in their work.  These professions include (but are not limited to):

Professional area Profession which this sprang from
Functional Neurology Chiropractic
Behavioural Optometry Opticians
Vision Therapy Opticians
Anat Baniel Method Feldenkrais
Various audio therapies Audiology
Scent Therapy Aromatherapy / Phyto-aromatics
Sensory Integration Therapy Occupational Therapy
Vestibular Rehabilitation Physical Therapy / Physiotherapy
Gillespie Approach CFT Cranio-sacral therapy
Neuro-developmental therapist Child development / Psychology

On the Resources page you will find some useful links to find these practitioners.