Studies have also shown that people with brain damage from various sources can "retrain" their brain by challenging it to learn new things, and that the very process of learning new things somehow triggers the recall of lost abilities. I can attest to this, as I suffered severe cognitive disruption (along with other neurological and physical deficits) as a result of a prolonged battle with untreated Lyme disease, which I had for 16 years before being diagnosed and treated. I'd become bedridden and isolated, unable to interact with more than one person at a time, and then only for brief periods. An outing took special planning.
When I was finally correctly diagnosed, and began aggressive treatment, I had to learn to walk and to read again. My short term memory was very poor and entire chunks of my past were inaccessible to me. I began with simple memory exercises, and then to more complex ones, and gradually my brain reforged neuronal connections to reclaim what I thought I'd lost. Eventually, I went back to work part-time as a field scientist in an area different from the one I'd been in, a pure joy in learning and thinking and analyzing. I picked up the art I'd left behind as a young mother, and learned fused glass, something I'd never done before, then returned to painting. Now retired, I recently took up weaving and am about to learn to spin, for the pure pleasure of learning and because I love doing things with my hands. I volunteer in my community as advocate for others with Lyme disease, and as a volunteer driver for people needing transportation.
My first language is English, and during my illness, I lost two other languages I was fairly competant in, Spanish and French. I am now relearning Spanish, and am thinking of starting another language (maybe Sanscrit) to truly challenge my brain. We lose what we have (or sometimes don't regain it after an event that disrupts brain functioning) because we don't use it. As children, we work very hard to learn. Then it is assumed that we are done, and our brains begin to atrophy. Having already been in that dim world where my brain struggled to stay in touch, I rejoice that I was finally diagnosed and treated and that I have had the opportunity to regain the use of my brain through its natural ability to heal and recreate neuronal connections.
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