The occurrence of neuroplasticity was fully discredited until the 1960’s. It was not until the 1990’s that conclusive evidence revealed the enormous amount of neuroplasticity that occurs within the brain. Discoveries of neuroplasticity in association with the sense pathways into the brain have been the most prevalent. The most documented has been the olfactory pathways. Research has revealed the mechanisms by which patients who have experienced a loss of smell (most often due to infection) redevelop the mapping associated with a normal sense of smell. As a side note, Parkinson’s patients and others experiencing deterioration in brain function often report a loss of their sense of smell. Treatments have been developed known as olfactory training which aids in the reformulation of the pathway mappings for olfactory cognition. Recent studies have even shown that the act of sniffing with no smell present activates a series of neurological reactions.
In a similar way, intense aerobic workouts have been shown to increase brain functioning and blood flow. Moreover, recent findings have shown that glial cells are incorporated into brain functioning and are transformed into new neural pathways. However, the pathways are only temporary in duration.
One would assume that some aspects of these pathways and cognition procedures are the body / mind connection to the concept of Fight or Flight. Pathways are temporarily created to access pending danger or even opportunity. Intense aerobic workout can be viewed as a precursor to danger. To avoid such danger, extra perceptual pathways are activated to improve the cognition of external threats and opportunities. This is my hunch solely and simply reflects a motif that seems to be integral to the discussion.
Upon discussing the research materials with a head and neck surgeon that I work with, I was surprised to find that some the therapies that were presented in the literature were not part of the typical medical response as described by the surgeon. In fact, he noted that most people who have lost their sense of smell never regain full function of their olfactory systems. Interestingly, Dr. Ruder noted that a common side effect of whiplash is the loss of the sense of smell. In those cases, he noted that the sense of smell is never regained since the nerves that serve the olfactory systems are typically severed by the extreme whiplash.
I hope to continue the discussion with Dr. Ruder in depth, however the Office Manager is currently on vacation. Thus, given that the office is a bit tense, I will pick up the discussion with him next week. I look forward to discussing the types of insights and specific research that you may want me to explore further with Dr. Ruder.
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