Brain Plasticity and Parkinson’s Disease

Robert, here is another interesting neurological phenomenon. As I have written before, I am a long time weight lifter and cyclist, which I continue in spite of my PD symptoms. Recently, I was convinced to try skipping rope as a speed, balance, and coordination adjunct to my workouts. Having not skipped a rope for more than thirty years, I was somewhat dismayed to find that I simply could not do it. I just could not coordinate the action of arms and legs and rope to do even one jump over the rope.

Not to be that easily defeated, I determined to “retrain my brain” to skip rope. Each day in the gym, after my regular workout, I spend about ten minutes devoted to rope skipping. The first time I was able to do it, I got up to 5 skips before failing. The next day I did ten, and the next fifteen, and so on, so that after only ten days I was able to do 50 continuous skips; after about two weeks now, I not only do 50 continuous skips, but 50 “step throughs”, and even up to 20 or so high speed skips. This amazes me because what was un-learned over thirty years could be re-learned in just a few days, in just about the same amount of time that it takes a kid to learn it in the first place.

It makes me think that we grossly underestimate and under-utilize our brains. There are millions of unused neural pathways just waiting to fill in for any that may be out of order or overused or abused for whatever reason. It also puts the lie to the conventional notion of “inevitable and continuous degeneration” that is associated with PD. That concept is the primary impediment to continuous re-generation and learning that are the natural condition of the brain (even an injured or malfunctioning brain).

Brad

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