Posts Tagged ‘taub’

Brain Plasticity: Learning to Rethink Drugs

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

An article in MIT’s Technology Review “Making an Old Brain Young: Scientists are developing new ways to manipulate the brain’s normal plasticity” caught my eye this week. From the title┬áI thought this would be a serious review of the medical advances expected from therapies that leverage brain plasticity.

Unfortunately, the article focused entirely on the possibility for developing drugs that exploit plasticity.

I’m not against drugs. Drugs are amazing. One very immediate example in my life: My daughter has congenital hypothyroidism — without synthetic thyroid hormone she would have been severely disabled. The medical world should be evaluating drugs that leverage plasticity. What concerned me about the article was the lack of any mention of reference to non-drug therapies. At the moment such therapies seem to be appearing or surfacing thick and fast and can be used right now, without waiting for the drugs to be developed, tested and approved: The Australian Alzheimer’s Association has endorsed brain training exercises as a non-pharmacalogical mechanism for delaying or preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms. The most effective therapies for stroke victims leverage plasticity through non-drug therapies (see Drake and Taub). Many learning specialists now work with brain exercises to mitigate or correct learning dysfunctions┬árather than accommodations. And other research has shown that the generation of new nerve cells in the dentate gyrus helps combat depression — something that can be assisted with exercise and brain exercise…

Surely, if our newfound knowledge of plasticity teaches us anything it teaches us that non-drug therapies can achieve some remarkable results.