Title : Neuroplasticity and experiential openness: Implications for brain trauma rehabilitation
Recovery from brain trauma is in part dependent upon the brain’s ability to adapt to new and challenging experiences. The brain’s capacity to structurally and functionally reorganize nerve cells and spontaneously develop new neuronal networks defines neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity can be enhanced by enriching the therapeutic environment and by providing patients with diverse and multisensory stimulation. Such enriched therapeutic activities have been found to enhance existing cognitive capabilities and to promote recovery from strokes and TBI’s across the lifespan.
Experiential Openess (EO) is a personality attribute characterized by the individual’s active imagination, intellectual curiosity, and preference for varied and novel stimulation. Individuals who are considered to be high in EO tend to be creative, reflective, inquisitive, and drawn to interests in unconventional and multisensory cognitive challenges.
Openess to experience has been empirically related to improved memory functioning in aging adults. The preservation of autobiographical, immediate, and declarative memory skills in normal and mildly demented adults rated high in EO suggests that this attribute may serve a protective function in normal and degenerative aging. The improved memory functioning consistently displayed by experientially open older adults may reflect more efficient and effective neuroadaptation to aging.
The relationship between EO and memory preservation across normal and degenerative aging populations has implications for the design of neurorehabilitation therapies. Patients rated high in EO may demonstrate greater willingness to engage in novel therapeutic experiences, artistic endeavors, and unconventional therapies involving music, self-reflection, mindfulness, etc. Therapeutic activities which model EO attributes may enhance and support neuroplasticity by incrementally introducing new and unconventional cognitive challenges into the therapeutic environment for both experientially open and closed individuals. Empirical and systematic analysis of the relationships between EO and adaptation to normal and degenerative aging and trauma related cognitive impairments will be discussed.
Audience Take Away
- Participants will increase their understanding of structural and functional neuroplasticity
- Participants will understand the characteristics of open vs. closed to experience personalities
- Participants will gain insight into the relationship between EO and preservation of memory in aging
- Participants will understand how diverse and multisensory cognitive challenges enhance neuroplasticity
- Participants will recognize the (dis-)advantages of EO in the brain trauma therapeutic setting
- Participants will be introduced to therapy enhancements designed to promote neuroplasticity
- Participants will be able to identify future areas for the systematic analysis of EO and cognitive rehabilitation