Roll Over Ruts

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Most people follow conventions. Some claim to survive their workplaces by sticking to rules.  Others say it’s too lonely to look for lit possibilities in so much darkness.  But I say broken practices reduce brainpower into ruts.

Basal Ganglia Penchant for Ruts

Unless you make change a daily habit, your brain locks you into the worst of times! How so?

Paul Bach-y-Rita,  now famous for neuro-plasticity discoveries, restored his father’s brainpower  following a crippling stoke. After a month’s therapy and little progress in NY, medical experts assured the family nothing could be done.

Sadly, doctors recommended the elderly Bach-y-Rita to an institution. Brains cannot repair themselves,  every medical leader insisted.  Yikes! With that flawed reasoning – no wonder nothing else could help a 65 year old invalid to walk or talk again. The result?

The bedridden scholar tanked from well respected professor at City College in NY, to complete dependency on others for basic needs.

Determined to change what stroke patients can recover, the sons brought their Papa back to Mexico and began to teach him to crawl again. Using the wall to support his limp shoulder, Bach-y-Rita, inched clumsily along the floor for months.

Motivated by care, his sons created marble games to play on the floor that required a reach and movement. Cynics in medical schools warned that recovery efforts simply wasted time.  Even neighbors criticized the family when their papa crawled outside, saying, “They treat their father like a dog.”

In spite of fierce criticism, the boys persisted to help their father recover from total loss.

Then a miracle! Progress began to show, as the father’s brain reorganized itself to take over damaged parts. Through hard work and determination, the father built new neuron pathways for language and walking – to replace damaged brain cells.

Long story short, Bach-y-Rita returned to City College in New York, at 68 – three years after his massive stroke.

To act and persist on the other side of loss, is to recognize the brain’s default to habits stored in the basal ganglia. The fix can be brutal since re-learning means massive rewiring of vast cortical connections.

New skills are in plastic competition with neural networks and the brain’s basal ganglia that  keeps you blinded to possibilities pins you in ruts mentally and emotionally. How could you open a window for rejuvenation that defies your brain’s basal ganglia penchant for ruts?

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2 thoughts on “Roll Over Ruts

  1. Madinah James

    Thx so much Christina for sharing this info! My dad had a hemorraghic stroke this past March, he had a blood vessel pop in his brain, he turned 70 two days after the stroke…My family and I have been looking into unconventional methods to get him to the nxt level…thx so much for sharing Healing Into Possibility as well, will chk it out!!!

  2. Christina McDowell

    For years, I researched stroke rehab and did a study using guided imagery with young stroke survivors (defined as 65 or younger). One’s intention to get better and perseverance has a huge impact on healing.

    Too many stroke survivors are still told by their dr’s that “this is as good as you will get”.

    Thanks for sharing the inspirational story!

    Check out my friend Alison Shapiro’s book Healing into Possibility. She had 2 brain stem strokes and was told she would never walk again, and went on to write a book and travel and speak to crowds about how healing IS possible. She also has a blog on Psychology Today.

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