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July 2012

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By Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

A New York Times article by Benedict Carey, May 31, 2012, described an experiment with rats that showed how the spinal cord and brain can regenerate nerve cells and connections after an injury. The result was that rats unable to walk after their spinal cord was cut, but not completely severed, could regain mobility.

They were put through a training program of being held upright on their hind legs still bearing their full weight, and being stimulated in three places: electrically in the part of the brain having to do with motor movements and in the spinal cord below the injury, and chemically in the injured area with medications that promote growth. Two to three weeks of 30 minute sessions of trying to get to a piece of cheese nearby resulted in initial steps, voluntarily. Walking on their own, and some of them running, developed in six weeks.

The training program engages the brain in developing new connections among nerve cells (neurons) to recover the lost abilities. New neurons do grow, like a Chia Pet. The brain and the nervous system were making new connections. A similar outcome was reported last year with a 23 year old paraplegic man, who was able to stand for a few minutes at a time after completing a similar program.

In a similar way, one wonders if the brain, or perhaps better put, the mind, can make new connections with other “training programs,” to recover from or circumvent injuries of various sorts. Is this how psychotherapy works on a more neurological level in making new connections to recover from, or work around, injuries to the human psyche, to a person’s being? Already, there is some evidence that long-term practitioners of meditation, like Buddhist monks, do have different brain wave patterns than other people, patterns that are consistent with feelings of well-being and inner peace.

Dr. Solomon is a Clinical Psychologist in Torrance. He is a member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network. Dr. Solomon can be reached at (310) 539-2772, or

Copyright 2012 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

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