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Recovering stroke patients go through rehabilitation to fix the paretic limbs and adapt to the nerve damage. Recovery consists of repetitive tasks that are designed to guide the plastic brain to adapt to new movements and gain muscle memory in those movements. Rehabilitation is strongly dependent on the brain’s plasticity, which is enacted through increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF has been proven to be increased through aerobic exercise, a common element found in rehabilitation programs. It is vital that the exercises performed in rehabilitation result in higher brain plasticity due to the limited time window of the critical period. Certain requirements such as maximum heart rate and frequency of exercises performed must be met to increase the plasticity in brain. These requirements are not always possible for every patient going through rehabilitation due to their differing activity levels. Understanding the relationship between time, exercise, plasticity, and recovery is essential to finding alternative treatments to exercise that can be used to increase brain plasticity. Memantine, an Alzheimer’s drug tested in rats regarding motor function, is a viable drug to increase plasticity. In several rat models, memantine was proven to increase cognitive function and BDNF levels in the brain, which is vital for the recovery of stroke patients. For patients that are not physically or mentally capable of meeting the requirements needed to increase plasticity, memantine can be administered as an alternative or conjoined treatment, so that patients may go through rehabilitation training and recover with a positive functional outcome.
Stroke, Recovery, Rehabilitation, Memantine
Current Academic Year
Mary C. Boyes
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