Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Brain Reorganizes

Fascinating work from Columbia University in New York has found that people who've been born with abnormal collections of blood vessels in their brains have managed to reorganize their brain function — sometimes right to the opposite side to where it normally is.

These lumps of arteries and veins are called arteriovenous malformations, and they grow steadily, only to show themselves when someone's in their thirties or so with a bleed or signs of pressure.

So there's been years to allow the brain to cope.

What about strokes, though, which are usually sudden events? Is the brain plastic enough to re-distribute function when the timeline is hours and days?

Well the answer seems to be yes. In fact, what sometimes occurs is that the brain can take a function like speech and move it somewhere else for a while till the original area heals, then move it back. They know this from scans, and occasionally from the tragic circumstance when the new area suffers a stroke and the function is lost a second time.

The researchers have also found that Valium-like drugs — the benzodiazepines — can temporarily bring back the disability of a stroke after the person has recovered.

This sounds like bad news, but it's actually given the researchers a clue to what might be happening in the brain — and the possibility that there might be a chemical messenger which speeds the re-distribution rather than hampers it.

The substance which has shown the provide the most protective action against stroke is Vitamin E, followed closely by CoQ10. Vitamin E is so well documented as protection from stroke and heart disease, it's worth taking daily as a preventive.

Vitamin E is also one of the major antioxidants. There are a few antioxidants which have the ability to "pitch hit" for each other. This means that when your system is low on one antioxidant, others can loan molecules to re-establish healthy levels of each antioxidant or neurotransmitter.

To your health,

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