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Harnessing Neuroplasticity: Promoting Brain Health with the Michigan Parkinson Foundation

Recently, I had the opportunity to present on the fascinating topic of neuroplasticity at the Michigan Parkinson Foundation with Dr. Reza Amini, MD, PhD, MPH. This event was not just an informative session but also an interactive experience where we engaged in exercises led by Occupational Therapist Quinn Counseller, incorporating PWR! Moves specifically designed for Parkinson's patients. Here's a recap of our presentation and the key takeaways:

1. Defining Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is the brain's incredible ability to adapt, reroute, and form new connections throughout life. Imagine your brain as a dynamic road system, much like a traffic network. When one route becomes congested or blocked, the brain can find alternative pathways, adapting to new challenges and situations.

2. Exercises to Promote Neuroplasticity with PWR! Moves

Before diving into the presentation, we warmed up with exercises led by Occupational Therapist Quinn Counseller, focusing on PWR! Moves designed specifically for Parkinson's patients. These exercises aim to improve motor function, balance, and coordination, all while promoting neuroplasticity. Here are a few dual tasking exercises (motor+cognitive) you can try at home:

  • Big Circles: Extend your arms out to the sides and make big circles with your hands, focusing on smooth and controlled movements.

    • Add: Naming a color with each revolution (e.g., each time your arms circle to the top of the circle, name red/orange/green/black, etc.)

  • Weight Shifting: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and shift your weight from side to side, focusing on maintaining balance and stability.

    • Add: Add by 3's with each step (e.g., 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24)

  • Marching in Place: Lift your knees high while marching in place, focusing on maintaining an upright posture and engaging your core.

    • Add: Card colors - get a deck of cards and have someone flip a card up one by one, each time it is red=raise right arm, each time it is black=raise left arm. You can upgrade this task by having a different arm movement for each suit.

  • Boxing Punches: Stand in a boxing stance and throw cross-body punches forward, alternating arms and focusing on coordination and rhythm. Once you get this down, add uppercut punches. The sequence should be: R arm cross-body punch > L arm cross body punch > R arm uppercut > L arm uppercut.

    • Add: Set your metronome at a comfortable speed and follow the beat. Increase frequency to further challenge yourself.

3. Recent Research on Positive Brain Health

Dr. Reza Amini and I discussed the latest research on promoting an optimal environment for neuroplasticity to thrive. Here are some key findings:

  • Exercise and Physical Activity: Regular exercise, including PWR! Moves, has been shown to promote neuroplasticity, improve motor function, and enhance overall well-being for Parkinson's patients.

  • Cognitive Activities and Engagement: Engaging in mentally stimulating activities can help maintain cognitive health and promote neuroplasticity.

  • Social Interaction: Socializing with others can reduce the risk of depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline, benefiting both mental and emotional well-being.

  • Lifestyle Factors: Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and stress management, plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal brain health.

  • Rehabilitative Therapies and Medication Management: For Parkinson's patients, rehabilitative therapies and medication management can help facilitate neuroplasticity, improve motor function, and enhance overall quality of life.

In Summary

Our presentation at the Michigan Parkinson Foundation highlighted the power of neuroplasticity and the importance of incorporating exercises like PWR! Moves into daily routines to promote brain health. There is hope for positive brain change, and we can all start today by embracing neuroplasticity, engaging in regular exercise, maintaining cognitive engagement, and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

So, whether you're living with Parkinson's or simply interested in improving your brain health, remember that neuroplasticity is the key to unlocking your brain's potential. Start incorporating these strategies into your daily routine and embark on a journey towards better brain health today!


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