Neuroplasticity refers to fact that the brain is not hardwired like a computer. That there are new and emerging cases that show how the brain can be changed, is neuroplastic, without drugs or surgery.
There is one famous case about Cheryl Schiltz, now called a Wobbler, feels like she is perpetually falling. And because she feels like she is falling, she falls.
In 1997, after a hysterectomy, Cheryl, then 39, contracted a post-operative infection and was given the antibiotic gentamicin. When they asked her to stand with her eyes closed, she fell over. It was then that a doctor told her, ‘You have no vestibular function (inner ear channel)’. Tests showed she had about two per cent of the function left. ‘He was,’ Cheryl says, ‘so nonchalant. “It looks like a side-effect of the gentamicin.” Why in the world wasn’t I told about that? “It’s permanent,” he said.’
She used a special a construction hat with holes in the side and a device inside called an accelerometer. Cheryl licks a thin plastic strip with 140+ small electrodes on it, and places it on her tongue. The accelerometer and the tongue strip are connected to a computer. This machine, a bizarre-looking Paul Bach-y-Rita prototype, will replace Cheryl’s vestibular apparatus by sending balance signals to her brain from her tongue.
The jerking stopped, and her brain decoded signals from her artificial vestibular apparatus. For her these moments of peace are a miracle – a neuroplastic miracle, because somehow these tingling sensations on her tongue are making their way, through a novel pathway in the brain, to the area that processes balance.
The first time they tried the hat, Cheryl wore it for only a minute. They noticed that after she took it off, there was a ‘residual effect’ that lasted about 20 seconds, a third of the time she wore the device. Then Cheryl wore the hat for two minutes and the residual effect lasted about 40 seconds. Then they went up to about 20 minutes, expecting a residual effect of just under seven minutes. But instead it lasted triple the time, a full hour. Over the next year Cheryl wore the device more frequently to get relief and build up her residual effect, which progressed to multiple hours, to days, and then to four months. Now she does not use the device at all and no longer considers herself a Wobbler.
In summary, by using a different brain path way – her brain was able to restore and build up neuron cells to “connect” and plasticize the way the brain worked and her brain eliminating the chaotic effect of losing her inner damage.
Link to a article Brain That Changes Itself: into the abyss in The Telegraph by Sharon Begley Jan. 19, 2007