This weekend I am attending the 14th annual Pain Society of Alberta virtual conference. The first session that I attended was by Dr. Norman Doidge, a trained psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, author and researcher. He was speaking about the neuroplastic approaches to pain.
If you are not familiar with neuroplasticity, it is the way the brain is able to adapt and change. Once thought as a machine like organ, the brain is much more "plastic" than once thought. His approach is that pain is a dysfunction of the brain.
My interest to this particular talk was two-fold. First, I work with people who deal with pain on a regular basis as do I (if you missed my story before, you can read it here). Secondly, I also have a fascination with the power of our brains and how it adapts to various stimulus related to memory and function.
My attention is further focused on the patients I work with in the program, Moving for Memory. This is a 10 week supervised exercise and cognitive program I facilitate at the Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network for people with mild cognitive impairment. Unfortunately, due to COVID19, we are unable to offer this program in person but I am always keen to learn new aspects of brain health. If you want to read more about the program, I wrote this article with my co-worker, Physical Activity and Mild Cognitive Impairment: The Moving for Memory Program, back in 2018.
I was happy to hear in Dr. Doidge session that the messaging I provide in class to patients is in alignment with his research. He is supportive of the power to move the body for brain health. Research has suggested that during exercise there is an increase in blood flow to the brain. This promotes neurogenesis in areas that control memory and thinking, particularly increases the size of the hippocampus, which is the area involved with learning and verbal memory.
Who would have thought that the benefits of being physically active could have a profound affect on the ever changing brain?!
Furthermore, in my experience, having positive experiences while moving your body (i.e., it is enjoyable, fun and engaging) can help solidify the behaviour as something you want to do not simply that you have to do. Dr. Doidge noted that "what fires together, wires together", something we say in the Moving for Memory class and links to the importance of having positive associations with exercise.
Sometimes I think we need to give our brain much more credit! After watching his presentation, I feel like I have so much more to learn. I hope to find copies of his books to read more!
In the mean time, here are three interesting articles on how exercise does change your brain:
Why Exercise Is Good for Your Brain
Just 10 Minutes of Exercise Can Help Your Brain
For Your Brain’s Sake, Keep Moving
Stay well and happy moving,