The notion that the brain is able to change in response to stimulation, an ability known as “neuroplasticity,” is now so widely accepted it can be called fact. One of the pioneers of this groundbreaking though, Dr. Norman Doidge describes how the brain is able to change in response to specific and repeated stimulation in his best selling book on neuroplasticity, The Brain that Changes Itself. We can essentially re-wire it through specific and repeated input. As in building strength and endurance with physical exercise, we are able to build neurological pathways and synaptic activity at any age.
In his second book, The Brain’s Way of Healing, Dr. Doidge describes a handful of neuroplastic interventions which are supported by clinical evidence and are changing people’s lives. iLs is one of these therapies.
iLs programs are based on this principle, providing gentle and specific stimulation in order to activate the neural pathways used in the processing of sensory information. Neuronal connections in these pathways are strengthened and new connections are established through repeated sessions of multi-sensory input. iLs trains for brain/body integration through a staged approach, starting with the fundamentals of sensory integration and then extending through more complex cognitive functions, including language, self-expression and social skills. iLs programs are customized, i.e. individualized for each person’s therapeutic goals.
The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a network of neurons deep in the brainstem that receives input from all sensory systems. It sends nonspecific information to the brain to “wake it up”. It is involved with regulating arousal and sleep-wake transitions, alertness, appropriate arousal to attend to the task at hand, and even prepares the motor system for action. The RAS is engaged through iLs’ multi-sensory training.
iLs provides specific and comprehensive stimulation to the vestibular system through bone conduction delivered via headphones, balance board activities, and body movement exercises. Directly connected to the cochlea of the inner ear, the vestibular system is responsible for balance, coordination, muscle tone, rhythm and awareness of the body in space. It plays a key role in organizing motor output and posture. The vestibular system, along with proprioceptive inputs, also has a strong impact on attention and emotional regulation. Once these systems are functioning well, children are better able to participate in higher brain functions such as reading, writing and expressive language.
The cerebellum is 10% of the weight of the brain but it has 50% of the brain’s neurons. In computer terms, the cerebellum is the processor, receiving input from sensory systems and various parts of the brain, and integrating these inputs to fine tune motor activity. Most neuroscientists agree that the cerebellum is involved in motor functions, cognitive functions such as attention and emotional functions such as regulating fear and pleasure responses. The iLs Playbook’s repetitive activities are designed to stimulate cerebellar function. Inputs from the visual, vestibular and auditory systems, session after session, train the cerebellum to become efficient at processing multi-sensory information.
A wide variety of studies have pointed out an incredible amount of adaptability our brain has. Thanks to neuroplasticity, human brain can be trained to improve cognitive function. This characteristic of our brain also has the potential to defer cognitive aging and treat a variety of symptoms, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and individuals who experienced stroke and traumatic brain injury.
Our goal has always been to find a way to improve brain function by systematically integrating music and movement, as well as language exercises. We have found that our multi-sensory programs, when used consistently and repeatedly, have a profound effect on each patient’s cognition as well as emotional health.