The University of Alabama developed Constraint Induced (CI) Therapy has been shown to produce structural brain changes, as well as increased gray matter. Constraint Induced Therapy requires intense practice of an activity over a relatively short period of consecutive days. Newswise (2008) reports:
The efficacy of CI therapy as a rehabilitation technique for stroke patients has been well documented. Taub and other researchers worldwide have seen remarkable clinical changes in patients, such as dramatically improved use of an affected arm or leg. They also have observed functional changes in the brain, such as increased blood flow or an increase in excitability of brain cells. The new study confirms what Taub and his colleagues have long suspected….that the brain also has the ability to remodel itself structurally.
Lynne Gauthier, a graduate student working in Taub’s lab, took MRI images of 16 stroke patients who received CI therapy and 20 controls who received a comparison therapy.
Gauthier used a sophisticated analysis technique known as voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to measure the amount of gray matter in the outer layers of the brain and the hippocampus, a structure deep in the brain involved in learning and memory. The CI therapy group showed an increase in the amount of gray matter in areas of the brain responsible for motor skills while the comparison group had no increase. The gray matter increase corresponded to a similar increase in the ability of the patients to use the affected arm for activities of daily living in the home situation.
“Interestingly, the patients who demonstrated the greatest improvement in use of the affected arm also showed the greatest increase in the amount of gray matter,” Gauthier said.