Over the last 15 years, we have learned that the brain is an amazingly dynamic structure. Everything you do changes your brain. When you are done reading this today, your brain will not be the same as when you started.
But which parts of the brain change, what changes them, and why? These are questions that Lara Boyd, Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology of Motor Learning at the University of British Columbia, is working to answer. Through a combination of motor testing, cognitive testing, and neural imaging, her team focuses on mapping how the brain changes with the goal of learning how to manipulate that change.
This research has amazing implications for health care, in particular for stroke recovery. Stroke is currently the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term adult disability in the world. Even though there are now fewer people dying from stroke, there is still a large group of people living with its devastating effects. Boyd’s group in the Brain Behaviour Lab at UBC is focused on manipulating change in the brain after a stroke in order to help people get better.
One of her findings is that exercise helps prime the brain for recovery. If a person practices a new motor skill after doing a short amount of exercise, the amount of change shown in the brain is almost double that of a person who had not exercised beforehand.
Boyd’s work is also being used to help children with learning disabilities and to help people manage stress.
Interested in stroke research? Come see how video games can help in stroke rehab or learn how a jello-like material can be used to transplant cells after stroke.