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Environmental stimulation is vital for the development of the brain in young children. There are certain critical periods during which, without environmental stimulation, children cannot ever learn speech for example. Research with animals has shown that environmental stimuli increase the rate of neurogenesis in the brain.7 & 8 Further research has shown that learning skills enhances this neurogenesis still further.9
Because brain injury itself stimulates neurogenesis and plasticity, we need to expose people with brain injury to as wide a range of environmental stimuli as possible, preferably as soon after injury as they are ready.
The best time for stimulation and re-education would seem to be almost immediately post-trauma. Unfortunately this is generally not possible as the patient may be struggling to recover from physical injuries, recently come out of coma etc… However it is important to begin stimulation, practicing skills and re-education as soon as possible
There are 5 important factors10 involved in plasticity, these are:
- 1) Stimulation – Environmental & Education input is vital for new connections.
- 2) Frequency – Frequent stimulation (daily practice) is more effective.
- 3) Duration – Too short and learning is not encoded and too long causes boredom.
- 4) Intensity – Optimum arousal is the correct balance between boredom and stress.
- 5) Consistency – The same exercises or stimulation are consistently repeated.
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